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THEY BUILT THE WEST 

An Epic of Rails and Cities 

BY 
GLENN CHESNEY QUIETT 




P. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY 

INCORPORATED 

NEW YORK LONDON 

1034 



Co**vm<3trr, I <.** i*v 

COM PAX V, INC 



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PREFACE 

TWO gigantic bridges are being thrown across the Bay of San 
Francisco to make one great metropolis of the cities around 
the Bay. Across the deserts of Southern California an elon 
gated caterpillar of steel is slowly creeping from Boulder Dam to Los 
Angeles. Through it will flow the water that has fallen on the slopes of 
the far-away Rockies and has rushed away to the lowlands cutting out 
the Grand Canon in its swift advance. Trains are now running through 
the Moffat Tunnel, which pierces the stony barrier of the Rockies at 
its most formidable point and gives Denver a place on a quick, direct 
transcontinental railroad route. In eastern Washington the waters of 
the Columbia are being impounded by the Grand Coulee Dam to 
furnish power, and ultimately irrigation, for a new empire. In Oregon 
there is being built at Bonneville, near tide-water on the Columbia, a 
huge dam to harness the river for the making of electricity. 

So do improvements on a tremendous scale go forward in the West, 
overcoming barriers, harnessing natural resources, making the land 
more fruitful, the cities more populous. All these enterprises, carried 
on by state or municipal or Federal authority, are the logical culmina 
tion of the earlier achievements of the individual industrialists and 
capitalists who built the West. 

The age of rugged individualism is over. No longer will it be neces 
sary to look to a few hardy, far-sighted, and perhaps unscrupulous 
individuals for the planning and execution of the vast schemes needed 
to develop the resources of the West. Undoubtedly there will be some 
such in the future, but there now seems to be neither necessity nor 
opportunity for individual exploitation on a large scale such as marked 
the building of the first transcontinental railroads and the first large 
industrial enterprises* 

Bold, shrewd, courageous, grasping, tenacious yes, some of them 
even dishonest, these giants of another day played their parts well. 
They were cast in the roles of builders, and they built. They built for 
themselves first and the rest of the world second. If they recognized 
that they had any responsibility to society, it was only an occasional 
vagrant flash of thought in their weaker moments of idleness. And it 



vu 



PREFACE ix 

ployees a million dollars from the profits of a railroad deal with George 
Gould at a time when such generous conduct was almost unheard of. 

They had the minds to grasp great problems, these hard-headed, 
hard-fisted men, the hands that wrought mighty works. Their ethics 
were in tune with the ethics of the day. They saw the possibility of a 
steadily growing prosperity through the exploitation of apparently 
illimitable natural resources, and they felt that any wise man who saw 
such opportunities would be a fool not to take all he could get. It was 
a game to them intricate, crafty, subtle, always rewarding in satis 
faction if well played, increasingly rewarding in profits as their skill 
grew. If the trend of the day's thought had been more strongly toward 
social betterment, some of these giants might have grasped it, appro 
priated it, triumphantly led it to new achievement. 

We in America ought to understand these builders. We should be 
able to share in the joy of conquest that they felt and in their satis 
faction of accomplishment. For we are young and aggressive still, even 
if a little tired. And we have been a part of this gigantic enterprise of 
building and exploitation. We have witnessed within the lifetimes of our 
old people the conquering of the wilderness, the pushing back of the 
frontier, and the building there of cities of delight. And we must now 
realize that whatever the natural advantages favorable to growth may 
be, the prime factor in the building of cities was and is men. Location, 
transportation, natural resources are necessary; but it is wise, 
aggressive, determined men who turn the weight of the scales of for 
tune in favor of one place or another. Men made an important center 
of Denver, which might have been a way-station on a branch line. 
Men built Los Angeles, in an unfavorable location, battling for her 
harbor, her water supply, her place in the sun. Men tore down the 
hills of Seattle to make room for a metropolis. And wherever there 
are men with far-sightedness and grasp and a love of accomplishment 
and a belief in their own destiny, cities will grow, to-day as yesterday. 

This book is about the accomplishments of some of the leaders in 
the building of the West, the men in the lime-light, the men at the top. 
But the story would not be complete if it did not tell also about the 
part played by the men at the bottom the men who sweated and 
struggled and worked for a pittance to build the West we know. There 
were Chinese in basket hats living on rice and tea; hardy, whiskey- 
drinking Irish ; Poles and Swedes and Americans, who laid rails and 
built cities by the sweat of their hands. It is this same army of men 
who to-day fill the dingy employment offices and watch the jobs listed 



X PREFACE 

on the black-boards on the Occidental Avenues and the Burnside 
Streets and the Howard Streets of the West. Strong young men, broken 
old men, unkempt, unshaven, sometimes drunk, wearing clumsy 
shoes and sweat-shop suits, satisfied if they have enough money for 
meals at a frowsy restaurant and a room in a cheap hotel. They are 
the workers in the army ; they are the privates without whose strong 
backs and capable hands the generals would have issued orders in vain. 
Our western cities and the steel trails that bear us swiftly to them 
are built on the bodies and spirits of these men. Let us not forget 
them when we pay tribute to the builders of the West. 

G, C. Q. 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

MANY people have helped write this book. When a writer 
who is not a professional historian attempts an historical 
subject, he must ask for much help and advice from those 
who are. The first of those who offered counsel and encouragement 
was the late Archer Butler Hulbert, who, out of his long experience 
and wide knowledge of early trails and transportation and life on the 
Western frontier, was able to give invaluable assistance. He freely 
opened his library of books and manuscripts at Colorado College and 
read and corrected the first five chapters of this book. Bubbling over 
with enthusiasm, full of plans for writing more about the history of 
the West, and anxious to help others to do such writing and research, 
he was one of the most lively and vivid of American historians. His 
recent death brought a severe loss to the West and to his friends. 

The collections of the Colorado State Historical Society were drawn 
upon in writing about Denver, and the assistance of the Secretary, 
LeRoy R. Hafen, was helpful on this chapter as well as upon every 
thing connected with early stage-coach and pony-express lines, on which 
he is an authority. He very kindly read the chapter on Denver. A. E. 
Ellsworth of the Denver Chamber of Commerce also provided informa 
tion. Miss Louise Kampff of the Colorado College Library assisted in 
collecting the material used and in checking various points. Consider 
able information about General Palmer was contributed by his former 
associate, William W. Postlethwaite of Colorado College. James F. 
Willard, professor of history at the University of Colorado, and the 
publishers of the Greeley Daily Tribune were helpful in collecting 
material on Greeley. 

California is fortunate in having a State Library at Sacramento 
which is unequaled for the speed, accuracy, and completeness with 
which historical information is supplied. To Miss Mabel R. Gillis, 
librarian, my compliments. And the same to Miss Dorothy Huggins of 
the California Historical Society, who also supplied information. The 
officers of the Society of California Pioneers were most agreeable in 
opening their fine collections of books and pictures. The most valuable 

xi 



Xll ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 

material on California was obtained from the manuscripts of the 
Bancroft Historical Library at Berkeley, which Herbert I. Priestley 
very kindly made available. This included manuscripts concerning the 
builders of the Central Pacific which had been collected by Professor 
Bancroft himself. Stuart Daggett, professor of transportation at the 
University of California, was helpful, as was also Robert P. Scripps 
of San Diego, who provided material about his father. The publishers 
of the San Francisco Examiner very kindly opened their files of 
clippings. Assistance was also given by Mrs. W. C. Morgan and Miss 
Clara Helen Brooks of the Friday Morning Club Library. 

Charles Caldwell Dobie, author of San Francisco Pageant, read the 
chapter on San Francisco, and Professor John Walton Caughey of the 
University of California at Los Angeles read the chapters on Southern 
California. 

Oregon has a splendid historical library in its State Historical Society 
in Portland, and Miss Nellie B. Pipes, librarian, was untiring in her 
assistance. George Himes, secretary of the Society, contributed much 
by way of reminiscence. Miss Amanda Otto, librarian of the Morning 
Oregonian, Simeon Reed Winch, business manager of the Oregon 
Journal, J. C. Ainsworth, president of the United States National Bank 
of Portland, and Dr. Arthur J. McLean all gave assistance in collecting 
information about Portland. 

W. P. Bonney of the Washington State Historical Society read the 
chapter on Tacoma ; Mrs. Roberta Frye Watt, author of The Story of 
Seattle, read the chapter on Seattle; Cornelius J. Brosnan, professor 
of American history at the University of Idaho, read the chapter on 
Spokane. Thanks are also due C. E. Johns of the Seattle Chamber of 
Commerce, W. G. Oves of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce; the 
staffs of the public libraries of Tacoma and Seattle ; and Miss Margaret 
Prosser. 

Various services were rendered by Carl R. Gray, president of the 
Union Pacific Railroad, W. N. Willard of the Atchison Topeka and 
Santa Fe, and officials of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Steamship 
Company. 

James Elaine Hedges, professor of history at Brown University, 
read the material concerning Henry Villard and the Northwestern 
railways; John Leeds Kerr, railroad economist of Young and Ottley, 
New York, read much of the manuscript and offered the use of some 
of his unpublished writings; Mrs. Senah Baylor Keenan of Los Angeles 
read and helpfully criticized the entire manuscript. For the valuable 



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Xlll 

suggestions and painstaking editing of F. G. Wickware the author is 
deeply grateful. 

Thanks for permission to quote is due the following publishers: 
the Grabhorn Press, San Francisco, The Diary oj Johann August 
Suiter; Frye and Smith, San Diego, The Man John D. Spreckels ; 
the Macmillan Company, New York, Hamlin Garland's A Daugh 
ter of the Middle Border; the Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, 
J. R. Perkins, Trails, Rails and War; the Viking Press, New York, 
Will Irwin's The City That Was; the Arthur H. Clarke Company, 
Glendale, California, LeRoy Hafen's The Overland Mail; the Lewis 
Publishing Company, Chicago, Jerome Smiley's History of Colorado; 
the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, the histories of 
Spokane, Tacoma, and Seattle; Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 
Bret Harte's "That's What the Engines Said" and George Kennan's 
Life of E. H. Harriman; the Ronald Press, New York, Stuart Dag- 
gett's Chapters in the History of the Southern Pacific; James F. 
Willard, Boulder, Colorado, The Union Colony at Greeley ; Smith- 
Brooks Publishing Company, Denver, J. Max Clark's Pioneer Days; 
the Greeley Tribune Press, Greeley, David Boyd's Greeley and the 
Union Colony. 

G. C. Q. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE Vii 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xi 

ILLUSTRATIONS XVii 

CHAPTER 

I. THE ROUTE FOR THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD ... 3 

II. THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY .... 12 

III. THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 35 

IV. EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 64 

V. TOWN-BUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES . . 82 

VI. RECLAIMING THE DESERT 113 

VTL DENVER AND HER STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION . . 143 

VIII. WHAT THE GOLD-RUSH BROUGHT SAN FRANCISCO . . 1 82 

IX. BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE . . . . 217 

X. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA^ FIRST REAL-ESTATE PROMO 
TION 256 

XI. THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC . . . 284 

XII. SAN DIEGO, LEFT OFF THE MAIN LINE 314 

XIII. PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 339 

XIV. TACOMA, A RAILROAD CREATION 4 

XV. SEATTLE, BORN OF THE SPIRIT 439 

XVI. SPOKANE, CAPITAL OF AN INLAND EMPIRE .... 496 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 543 

INDEX SS 1 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Council Bluffs Crossing on the Overland Trail . . . Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

Grenville M. Dodge 32 

Oakes Ames 32 

George Francis Train 32 

William J. Palmer 32 

David F. Moffat 32 

A Survey Party on the Kansas Pacific Route 33 

A Union Pacific Construction Train and Crew 48 

The Old and the New in Overland Transportation .... 48 

The Meeting of the Locomotives at Promontory Point .... 49 

Shooting Buffalo on the Line of the Kansas Pacific 56 

The Grand Canon of the Arkansas 57 

Early Omaha 88 

A Deserted Railroad Town in Kansas 89 

In the Garden of the Gods 89 

Pikes Peak and Colorado Springs 112 

"Glen Eyrie" 113 

Nathan Cook Meeker 128 

The Meeker Homestead at Greeley 128 

The First Settlement at Greeley 129 

Greeley Today I2 9 

A Sugar-Beet Field under Irrigation near Greeley 129 

Denver, City of the Plains, against Her Mountain Wall . . . . 160 

Gulch Mining in Clear Creek Canon 161 

The Moffat Road in Gore Canon 161 

Denver from the Air I 7 6 

The Denver Civic Center *77 

The East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel i?7 

The Presidio of San Francisco I 9 6 

Sutter's Mill at Coloma 196 

xvii 



XV111 ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PAGE 

San Francisco in 1849 197 

Collis P. Huntington 204 

Leland Stanford : 204 

Theodore D. Judah 204 

Charles Crocker 204 

Mark Hopkins 204 

Sacramento in 1849 20 S 

Interior of an Early Transcontinental Palace Sleeping-Car . . . 208 

Snow-Sheds on the Central Pacific 209 

The Cliff House and Seal Rocks 209 

James G. Fair 224 

James C. Flood 224 

William S. O'Brien 224 

George Hearst 224 

John W. Mackay 224 

Virginia City 225 

William Sharon 244 

William C. Ralston 244 

Adolph Sutro 244 

John P. Jones 244 

Darius 0, Mills 244 

Stage-Coaches for the Nevada Mines 245 

Entrance to the Sutro Tunnel at Sutro, Nevada 245 

The Sky-line of San Francisco from the Bay 252 

San Francisco's Civic Center 252 

The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge 253 

Los Angeles in the Fifties 260 

The Station of the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad . . . 260 

Phineas T. Banning 261 

Elias J. Baldwin 261 

William B. Strong 261 

William A. Clark 261 

Henry E. Huntington 2 6i 

An Early Real-Estate Promotion 268 

A Palm-lined Street in a Modern Suburb 269 

A Winter Vista in Los Angeles County 269 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

PACING PAGE 

The First Special Fast Fruit Train from Southern California . .288 

An Orange-Grove in Los Angeles County 288 

Los Angeles Harbor 289 

The Los Angeles Aqueduct 289 

The Venice Oil Field 304 

An Irrigated Vineyard in Southern California 304 

Boulder Dam 305 

San Diego in 1846 320 

The Mission of San Diego de Alcala 320 

Alonzo E. Horton 321 

George Chaffey 321 

Thomas A. Scott 321 

Frank A. Kimball 321 

John D. Spreckels 32! 

San Diego in 1870 336 

San Diego Harbor and the Business Sky-Line 336 

Rockwood Head-Gate of the Alamo Canal 337 

A Cantaloupe Ranch in the Imperial Valley 337 

Early Portland 352 

Simeon G. Reed, John C. Ainsworth, and Robert R. Thompson . .353 

Ben Holladay 353 

Portland in 1867 368 

"Wooding-up" a Columbia River Steamer 369 

The First Transcontinental Train on the Northern Pacific . . .369 

Ocean Shipping at Portland Docks 384 

Mount Hood and Portland Today 385 

Frederick Billings 400 

Henry Villard 400 

Jay Cooke 400 

James J. Hill 400 

Edward H. Harriman 400 

Tacoma, Terminus of the Northern Pacific 401 

Windjammers Loading at Tacoma's Wheat Docks 416 

Northern Pacific Western Headquarters 417 

East Portal of the Stampede Tunnel through the Cascades . . .432 

The Port of Tacoma Piers 432 



XX ILLUSTRATIONS 

PACING PAGE 

Tacoma's Business Sky-Line and Mount Rainier 433 

Tacoma from the Air 433 

The Battle of Seattle 448 

Seattle in 1870 449 

Bird's-Eye View of Seattle in 1884 464 

The Terminus of the Puget Sound and Walla Walla Railroad . . 465 

The Reduction of Denny Hill 465 

The West Portal of the Cascade Tunnel 488 

Electric Freight Haulage in the Cascades 488 

Panorama of Seattle's Harbor and Business District .... 489 

The Falls of the Spokane 512 

The Northern Pacific Building Westward over the Plains . . 512 

Early Spokane 513 

A Washington Wheat-Field 528 

Lumbering in the Inland Empire 528 

The Capital of the Inland Empire 529 



MAPS 

PAGE 

Map of the Central Transcontinental Lines g 

Map of California and Nevada Z 3 4 

Map of the Northwest 040 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

CHAPTER I 

THE ROUTE FOR THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD 

ON a September morning in 1859, nine months before Abraham 
Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency of the United 
States, he climbed to the top of a high cliff at Council Bluffs, 
Iowa, and looked westward across the plains. At his back was American 
civilization the busy cities, the rich commerce, fertile farms, and 
comfortable homes of the young Republic. Before him was a sparsely 
peopled land, beginning with the bare flood-plains of the Missouri, 
through which the broad, sluggish, muddy river twisted and cut its 
way. Close at hand, in the fields of wild grass and sunflowers below 
him, a few lonely, scattered cabins sent their columns of smoke drifting 
upward. And away to the west stretched the open country, flat, un 
broken, interminable as a becalmed sea. 

As he looked over those wide-spreading plains that morning and 
watched the meandering river which found its sources a thousand miles 
to the north and west, Abraham Lincoln symbolized America. For 
America, too, was looking to the West and dreaming of its future. Her 
eyes and thoughts had crossed the Mississippi two generations before, 
in 1803, when Congress purchased the vast territory of Louisiana from 
France. Four decades later she had looked to the southwest and, in 
1845, acquired the plains of Texas. Next year she ended a long dispute 
with Great Britain over the western fur trade and added Oregon, reach 
ing north along the Pacific to the 49th parallel of latitude. In 1848, 
by cession from Mexico, came golden California; and in 1853, with the 
Gadsden Purchase of a strip of Mexican desert, her territory was 
solidly completed from Atlantic to Pacific. 

Gold was discovered in California in '49, in Colorado in '58 ; there 
were rich farm-lands waiting for the plow in green Oregon valleys ; the 
plains of Texas swarmed with fat cattle. The fever of adventure spread 

3 



4 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

through New England, the Mid-West, the South, and men by the 
thousands set out on the long overland journey to the land of romance 
and riches. For years a stream of covered wagons had been struggling 
across the broad plains over which Lincoln now stood, to California 
and Colorado and Oregon. The early emigrants encountered hard travel, 
tortuous roads, and hostile Indians to hold them back. Wagons stuck 
in the mire, costly heavy equipment abandoned by the roadside, and 
the blanching bones of men and animals were visible signs of the 
rigors of the overland trail. Men paid a high price for the privilege of 
making that pilgrimage in search of the pot of gold at the foot of the 
rainbow. 

All these things Lincoln knew, and he knew more. He knew of the 
titanic struggles in Congress over the political alignment of those new 
territories ; he knew that they were ready for orderly colonization by 
larger numbers of people than the covered wagon could ever carry; 
that the things now needed for the development of the cities, towns, 
and resources in the vast new empire were men and money ; and that 
the first step in opening up the Western country must be the building 
of a railroad. 

Where should it go? No one doubted that the riches of the West 
must be brought to the doors of the East ; the only question was, which 
doors? The South would have the rails extend westward along the 32d 
parallel of latitude from Texas to California, draining the commerce 
of the new country to the port of New Orleans at the mouth of the 
Mississippi; St. Louis interests favored the 3Sth-parallel route, going 
somewhat southward from their city to California ; Kansas wished the 
railroad to run straight west between the 3 8th and 3Qth parallels over 
the hump of the bear's back of the Rockies at its center near Denver 
and on to San Francisco ; Chicago favored a line between the 4ist and 
42d parallels to unite the Missouri River at Council Bluffs and Omaha 
with the harbor of San Francisco ; and the most northern route of all 
was that projected between the 46th and 48th parallels to join Lake 
Superior with Puget Sound and the Columbia River, and to connect 
with the East by means of steamers across the Lakes to Detroit. Each 
of these routes had Its determined advocates, who were ready to battle 
uncompromisingly; for each meant commercial advantage to the sec 
tion of the country it would traverse. 



THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD 5 

As one who had represented Illinois in the Congress of the United 
States and had been invited to be Governor of Oregon, Lincoln was, 
of course, interested in the northern route favored by Chicago and the 
route from St. Louis favored by southern Illinois. When a political 
speech took him to Kansas, he took the Missouri River boat from St. 
Joseph to Council Bluffs in order to study the railroad question further, 
and one evening, on the big front porch of the Pacific House, he had a 
chance to get first-hand information. From among the group of citizens 
who gathered to meet him, his friend W. H. M. Pusey picked out a 
dark young New Englander and brought him over to Lincoln's chair 
by the porch rail. "This engineer knows more about railroads than 
any two men in the country/ 7 he said. And so Lincoln began to question 
the 28-year-old railroad surveyor, Grenville M. Dodge, as to the best 
route for a railway to the Pacific. 

Dodge knew his subject thoroughly; in addition to his own surveys, 
he had read the reports and opinions of Fremont and the pioneer sur 
veyors, Stanbury's studies of Salt Lake, and other government docu 
ments. And he knew the 42d-parallel route so well that he had made a 
map for emigrants which, he said, "gave an itinerary showing each 
camping-place all the way to California, giving the fords, and where 
water and wood could be found. This map was published by the citizens 
of Council Bluffs for the purpose of controlling emigration ; and, as it 
was one of the first maps of the country giving such information, it 
had greater influence in concentrating a large portion of the Oregon 
and California emigration at Council Bluffs after 1854." 

So sure was Dodge that the 42d-parallel route was the predestined 
and logical way to the West that he took up a government claim on 
the Elkhorn River, 30 miles west of Omaha, and began his fight for the 
proposed Pacific railroad to pass through his property and go up the 
valley of the Platte River. Soon afterward, the covered wagons, usually 
twenty in a train, having outfitted at Council Bluffs, began to roll past 
the Dodge cabin and to use his land for camping, since it was just far 
enough west of Omaha to afford a first-night halting-place. All the 
information he had gained from his own investigation and from the 
experiences of others who had made the trip west, the young 
engineer of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific now put at Lin 
coln's disposal. "He shelled my woods completely," Dodge said later, 



6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

"and got all the information I had collected for my employer in less 
than an hour." 

From Dodge, Lincoln learned that the 42d-parallel route was the 
most practical and economical ; that buffaloes, Indians, and Mormon 
emigrants had already proved the trail up the Platte River valley to 
the Rockies to be the natural route to the West ; that Council Bluffs 
was the logical starting-place because of the railroads building to that 
point from Chicago. For the young surveyor believed that "there was 
never any very great question, from an engineering point of view, as to 
where the line, crossing Iowa and going west from the Missouri river, 
should be placed. The Lord had so constructed the country that any 
engineer who failed to take advantage of the great open road out the 
Platte valley, and then on to Salt Lake, would not have been fit to 
belong to the profession." 

Perhaps Lincoln was further influenced in favor of the 42d-parallel 
route by the fact that his manager in the Douglas debates, Norman 
Judd, already owned Council Bluffs real estate and was asking him 
for a loan of $3,000 on it. At any rate, when he boarded the river-boat 
that evening and watched the sun-scorched village and its yellow cliffs 
recede in the twilight, he had ample reason to believe that the Pacific 
railroad should be built on the central route and find its terminus at 
Council Bluffs. As to the necessity of building Western railroads he had 
never any doubt. Long ago, in an election campaign, he had registered 
his belief when he said, "Whether elected or not, I am for distributing 
the proceeds of the sale of public lands to construct the railroads." 

Heavy battles had yet to be fought before the route of the first 
Pacific railroad could be settled, but when the decision was finally 
made, by President Lincoln, that the terminus of the Union Pacific 
should be at Council Bluffs, the course of the economic development 
of the nation was profoundly influenced. By this one act, impetus was 
given to the commercial ascendancy of Chicago as opposed to St. Louis 
and Cincinnati, the building of the cities of Omaha and Denver was 
made possible, the position of San Francisco was strengthened, the 
South was definitely deprived of benefit from Western trade, and the 
early economic development of the Northwestern states was assured. 

Congress and the country had long before recognized that railroad- 
building and community development must go hand in hand, and 



THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD 7 

Stephen A. Douglas, Representative from Illinois, had urged the organi 
zation of the Territory of Nebraska so as to provide for the settlement 
of the country through which a railroad might pass and the develop 
ment of its resources in order that business and traffic might be created 
for the railroad. Asa Whitney had made the first proposal to Congress 
for a Pacific road, to be aided by a grant of land 60 miles wide, extend 
ing from Milwaukee through unsettled public lands to the mouth of the 
Columbia; but he was opposed by Douglas, who favored the route 
from Chicago. Since Whitney's line would have to connect with the 
East by the water route across Lake Michigan to Detroit, Douglas 
objected that it would be out of commission four months a year be 
cause of ice; he maintained that Whitney's plan conferred too much 
land and power on one man, and that the logical place of convergence 
for Eastern and Western railroads was Chicago. 

In the jockeying for commercial ascendancy that followed, the routes 
of both Whitney and Douglas were opposed by the Southern states, 
and when Jefferson Davis became Secretary of War, it looked as if the 
Southern states would win. He ordered the survey of the southern 
Pacific route through what is now Arizona, estimated the expense of 
construction to be much less than by any other route, and caused the 
United States to make the Gadsden Purchase of a strip of Mexican 
desert below the Gila River to provide this Southern railroad with easy 
access to the Pacific through American territory. His plans had been 
furthered by the Mexican War, which gave New Mexico and California 
to the United States, and by the settlement with Great Britain of the 
Oregon question, which removed the cause of pressure for the imme 
diate building of a northern Pacific railroad. 

Douglas, who, in anticipation of success, had bought 70 acres of 
land at Chicago, now mustered his forces for the selection of the 
northern central route. In 1853 he again introduced the measure for 
the organization of Nebraska, but, in order to give Chicago a better 
chance, he changed the bill to provide for the organization of the two 
territories of Nebraska and Kansas instead of only one. Historians 
have usually assigned the reason for this split to a desire to compromise 
with the South by permitting slavery in one new territory, Kansas, to 
balance the prohibition of slavery in the other, Nebraska. But a repre 
sentative from Iowa stated the reason thus : "The interests of our state 



THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD 9 

demanded two territories ; otherwise the seat of government and lead 
ing thoroughfares must have fallen south of Iowa." 

To Douglas, one territory meant aid to the central route; two 
territories meant an equal chance for the northern route from Chicago. 
Hence, he championed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which was to mean 
so much to the development of certain parts of the West. Professor 
F. H. Hodder of the University of Kansas, who has made a thorough 
study of the matter, has this to say : 

The organization of Kansas and Nebraska was the outcome of a project 
that Douglas had formulated nine years before and for six years had been 
actively promoting. Not feeling very strongly on the subject of slavery and 
believing sincerely that it was not likely to invade this region, he was 
willing even to repeal the Missouri Compromise in order to accomplish 
the great purpose of his life. There is a saying: "You cannot see the 
mountain near." There is point in the proverb, but it is equally true that 
you cannot see anything else when you are near the mountain. Our 
fathers were so near the mountain of slavery that they did not realize the 
importance of the great movement of population of which they were a part 
and of the building of the railways, which was its controlling factor. Our 
generation has been making history out of partisan diatribes of the past. 
It is time to take account of the forces that made for nationality and union 
as well as those that made for sectionalism and separation. 

In 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, the Southern 
route was permanently blocked, and with it Jefferson Davis 7 plan for 
the ultimate absorption of Mexico into the United States. It is probable, 
also, that the Act saved California to the Union, for had that state been 
joined to the South by ties of commercial interest, it might well have 
seceded along with the Confederacy. Like the Middle-Western states, 
whose sympathies had passed from the South to the North when 
northern railroads had carried their trade away from New Orleans to 
New York, the new state of California now found its interests definitely 
allied with the North against any movement for secession. Thus did 
purely commercial considerations change the history of the United 
States and chart the course of empire in the West. 

Cataclysmic events followed Lincoln's trip to Council Bluffs. He was 
nominated and elected to the Presidency ; the South seceded, removing 
its insurmountable opposition to the granting of government aid to 
building a northern railroad to the Pacific; and the North could not 



10 THEY BUILT THE WEST 



build through the states in secession. The Union Pacific Railroad was 
chartered July i, 1862, and Congress left the fixing of the eastern 
terminus to the President of the United States. Lincoln issued an 
executive order establishing it at Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Grenville 
M. Dodge, the young man he had met on the porch of the Pacific 
House, was soon helping to build the first railroad to the West. From 
Omaha, Nebraska, across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs, the 
road began to send its shining bands of steel westward to meet a second 
road, the Central Pacific, building east from Sacramento. And although 
the project moved slowly for several years and the tracks became 
covered with rust, they were a visible promise of the fulfilment of that 
roseate dream of Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, who thrilled 
Congress with his romantic predictions of the railroad that would 
change the whole world. "Let the great line be adorned with this 
crowning honor," said he in a burst of enthusiastic oratory, "the colossal 
statue of the great Columbus, whose design it accomplishes, hewn from 
the granite mass of a peak of the Rocky Mountains, overlooking the 
road, the mountain itself the pedestal, and the statue a part of the 
mountain, pointing with outstretched arm to the western horizon, and 
saying to the flying passenger, 'There is the east! 7 There is India!' " 

As yet no sculptor has carved Senator Benton's heroic Rocky 
Mountain Columbus, but if this should ever be done, the doughty 
Genoese should be surrounded by a host of other figures, equally bold, 
and some of them almost as visionary, the men who bore the sweat 
and heat of the day in pushing the rails across the continent, completing 
the circle of world trade-routes and creating that new and opulent 
civilization in the West of which Benton dreamed. 

With the laying of the first rails, the way was finally opened for the 
building of the West. The day of the covered wagon and the pony 
express and the straggling train of weary and beleaguered emigrants 
was over. Now great hordes of colonists would make the western trip 
quickly and easily in a few days, and the crops and goods they pro 
duced in the new country would be speedily transported back to the 
centers of population in the East. As the rails pushed westward, the 
buffalo and the Indian would vanish. As the country became more and 
more cultivated, cattle would be driven from the free open range, 
mountains would be rifled of their coal and ore, water's of their fish,' 



THE FIRST PACIFIC RAILROAD II 

forests of their trees. Smoke would arise from great industrial plants, 
factory-whistles would blow, dollars would jingle, and busy cities would 
spring up as the beneficiaries of the new order of things. The way was 
now made ready for the second string of pioneers the builders, busi 
ness men, industrialists, promoters, who would bring those two prime 
necessities, money and men, to exploit the resources, and build the 
cities, and create America's new empire in the West. 

They form a bridge, those determined, practical men of affairs, join 
ing our own prosaic age with those romantic days when the moccasin- 
shod hunters and trappers first softly padded through the Western 
forests and along the Western rivers ; when the early missionary priests 
stilled the war-cries of the Indian with the upheld cross and beguiled 
him into Christianity with the picture-story, "The Catholic Ladder" ; 
when the stage-coach, surrounded by a cloud of dust, lurched into 
primitive mining camps with letters a month old from the East ; when 
bearded prospectors first panned and dug the gold. Invading the waste 
places, bringing with them the iron horse, the city, the farm, the factory, 
the construction gang, they were not so fascinatingly exotic as their 
predecessors, but they were just as vitally necessary to the country. 
And they brought to their task notable qualities of daring, strength, 
energy, determination, and practical powers of translating ideas into 
actualities which have built the West we know to-day. 



CHAPTER II 

THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 

WHEN the first transcontinental railway, the Union Pacific, 
was finally completed as a railroad system, it comprised 
two routes from the Missouri to the Rockies: the first 
and main line extended from Council Bluffs through Cheyenne, 
Wyoming, to Ogden, Utah ; the second and subsidiary line, built later 
as a rival road, known as the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific 
and also as the Kansas Pacific, paralleled the main line at the south 
and extended from Kansas City to Denver. Grenville Mellen Dodge 
was the chief figure in the surveying and engineering development of 
the first line, and William Jackson Palmer occupied a similar position 
on the second. The engineering work of both had been interrupted by 
active service in the Civil War, and when they returned to civil life, 
each had attained the rank of brigadier-general in the Federal Army 
In their long lives of exploration, surveying, construction, and financing 
these two men well represent the engineering and constructive genius 
that took the first step in the building of all the railways of the West. 
They knew the hardships and pleasures of exploring the new country 
and determining the routes over which the iron horse should travel, 
the thrill of discovering unknown passes through forbidding barriers 
of mountain ranges, the delight of viewing vast expanses of unpeopled 
territory and dreaming of how it might be developed for the uses of 
man. They had the driving power and dogged determination which 
kept surveying parties on the march and construction gangs laboring 
under burning suns and in the bitter cold of winter, which pushed the 
rails steadily westward, day by day, despite hostile Indians, unfavor 
able weather, and natural barriers. They knew the difficulties and re 
wards of financing large projects, of colonizing farms and cities, of 
developing the resources of the country, and of upbuilding its com 
munities. 

12 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 13 

On the ist of May, 1866, at the age of 35, Grenville M. Dodge was 
made chief engineer of the Union Pacific. At the outbreak of the Civil 
War he had abandoned his surveying work to organize companies of in 
fantry in Iowa. He was soon given the rank of colonel, and later that of 
brigadier-general, and he rose to such importance that he was assigned 
the task of keeping open the line of communications in the Union 
descent on Vicksburg. Grant considered him the ablest officer in the 
field in railroad work and said of him : 

General Dodge, besides being a most capable soldier, was an experienced 
railroad builder. He had no tools to work with except those of the pioneer 
axes, picks and spades. Blacksmiths were detailed and set to work 
making the tools necessary in railroad and bridge building; axemen were 
put to work in getting out timber for bridges; car builders were set to 
work repairing the locomotives and cars. Thus, every branch of railroad 
building, making tools to work with and supplying the workingmen with 
food, was all going on at once and without the aid of a mechanic or labor 
except what the command furnished. General Dodge had the work 
assigned him and finished in forty days after receiving his order. The 
number of bridges to rebuild was 182, many of them over deep and wide 
chasms; the length of the road repaired was 182 miles. 

And Sherman once remarked to Grant during a critical campaign, 
"Dodge is two weeks ahead of us as usual." 

All this military experience stood Dodge in good stead when he 
returned to the engineering problems of the Union Pacific, and his 
friendship with Grant and Sherman and acquaintance with Lincoln 
procured him frequent favors at their hands. Since the building of the 
Union Pacific, aided by government grants of land and funds, was 
regarded at this time not only as a commercial desirability but as a 
military necessity, positively essential in binding together the East and 
the West, Dodge was able to draw heavily upon the military establish 
ment for troops for the protection of his parties against Indians. He also 
found it to his advantage that most of his men had seen service in the 
Army and were, therefore, trained in military discipline. 

The surveying parties that went out for Dodge were made up of 
from eighteen to twenty-two men, all armed, all inured to hardship, 
all keyed to a life of daring adventure. Each party had a chief engineer 
and two assistants, several young men with engineering training to act 



14 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

as rodmen and linemen, some herders and axmen, and often a hunter 
to bring in game for the party's larder. When they entered a country 
occupied by hostile Indians, they were furnished with a military escort 
of from ten men to a company, under a competent officer, to protect 
them in camp and at work. In the field this escort would usually station 
itself on hills commanding the territory and would watch the party and 
the surrounding country so as to head off sudden attacks by the Indians. 
Notwithstanding this protection, the parties were often attacked, their 
men killed or wounded, and their horses stolen. 

From daylight till dark the engineers labored. They would set out 
at the crack of dawn, and by night they would have advanced from 
eight to twelve miles if they were working on preliminary surveys in 
open country, three or four miles if on the more careful work of final 
location. In the mountainous country, however, the obstacles were so 
many that they frequently made no more than a mile a day. The chief 
engineer reconnoitered ahead, laying out the preliminary survey which 
indicated the streams to follow and the controlling points of summits 
and river-crossings, and the party of location followed him, carrying 
forward the maps and profiles and endeavoring to obtain a line of the 
lowest grade and least curvature. 

In 1867 Dodge had sent four parties into the field, the first to revise 
the location of the route at the eastern base of the Rockies, the second 
to make a final location through the Laramie Mountains, the third to 
examine the Wyoming country between Fort Sanders and Green River, 
the fourth to examine the country between Green River and Salt Lake 
and as far north as the comparatively unknown Snake River. But plans 
made for surveying the wild West in those days were subject to change 
without notice, and life itself was a matter of luck. Six miles east of 
Cheyenne, when his work was only well begun, the chief engineer of the 
first party was surrounded by hostile Indians and killed. The second 
party completed its work without mishap, and the third was proceeding 
well when the chief engineer, Percy Brown, for whom the Union 
Pacific station Percy, Wyoming, is named, was surrounded by a band 
of nearly 300 Indians at Bitter Creek, east of Rock Spring. Although 
he fought them off successfully from noon until dark, he was finally 
shot through the body and mortally wounded. After suffering these 
two losses, Dodge yas compelled to split up the fourth party to supply 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 15 

the losses of the other three, and himself to take the field in direct 
charge of all the surveying. 

It was evident that the Indians had attacked all along the line, pick 
ing off members of the escorting parties as well as the engineers, and 
even the graders in the construction gangs. Consequently, the work 
was virtually broken up and the morale of the surveyors shattered, and 
Dodge had the task of reviving courage as well as of reorganizing 
parties and plans. 

Some idea of the problems of the engineer can be had from the work 
he did on this trip. Accompanying him, as he left the end of the track, 
at Julesburg, Nebraska, was a Mr. Blickensderfer, who had been 
assigned by President Lincoln to the duty of determining the eastern 
base of the Rocky Mountains, so as to fix the amount of subsidy per 
mile that the Government would grant for building the Union Pacific 
Railroad and its branches. Dodge intended to help decide this delicate 
problem of the point where the mountain construction work would 
begin. They pushed by rapid marches up the Lodge Pole Creek valley, 
examining the line, and pitched camp at what is now the city of 
Cheyenne. Massi C. E. Fontanero said he was with General Dodge 
when the latter rode ahead to locate Cheyenne. At the end of the day, 
sore with riding, the General slid painfully from his horse, and as he 
sank his hatchet into the ground, he said, "By God, Cheyenne will 
be right here." 

At Cheyenne Dodge took over the work abandoned when the sur 
veying parties were driven out by the Indians. After making the difficult 
location of the road between Cheyenne and the Laramie Mountains, he 
entered the Laramie Plains to the west. Here, because of heavy snows 
in winter and the lack of water in parts of the country, Dodge found it 
necessary to carry his line through at the lowest possible elevation on 
the Plains ; so, clinging closely to the watercourses, he obtained a line 
away from the high mountains, unexposed to drifting snows, and ac 
cessible to the coal-fields near Rock Creek. He then examined the 
country to the north and south, after which he struck west, to seek 
water and a crossing of the divide farther north, taking the old Chero 
kee Trail. Here he met one of his parties which had got into the Red 
Desert and had been wandering about without water for three days. 
Several men had nearly died from drinking poisonous water which 



l6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

they found in a stagnant lake. But this was only an incident in the 
life of the Union Pacific engineers. Water finally reached the men, 
hauled in by their wagons, and Dodge pushed on, endeavoring to find 
the outlet over the western rim of Red Basin that would lead to Bitter 
Creek with the shortest possible route between running water and 
running water. The task of examining, or, as Dodge referred to it, "de 
veloping," the country proved to be so heavy that he left a party for 
that purpose, a party which wandered among the cliffs and rocks seek 
ing the most feasible line during the whole fall and early winter. 
Though they endured hardship and suffering, often being without water 
for days and without fire or wood, Dodge says they nevertheless did 
the work fully and successfully that their chief "met the question 
and solved it." 

Those terse words might well be the epitaph of many an engineer 
who blazed the trail for the first Western railroads : He met the question 
and solved it. No matter what the difficulties and obstacles these men 
faced, there was no turning back. Rough, dangerous, deadly the life, 
baffling the problems, but the surveyors seldom flinched or failed. The 
chief engineer of each party was a man of natural courage and ability, 
and to him was given complete authority. One of the instructions or 
dinarily given in the field was that the chief must absolutely command 
his men and at all times be ready to fight. And from chief to humblest 
axman every man could be counted on to sweat and strain and give 
the best that was in him to push the line on to the West. Dodge, as 
chief engineer, might well have contented himself with sitting in a 
swivel-chair in a far-away city and directing his men to do the dirty 
work. But, like Palmer and the other leading engineers of the Western 
roads, he was always ready to abandon comfortable living in the city 
and get down into the muck with his men. He was equally at home 
riding in his carriage in the Bois de Boulogne, seeking to enlist the 
financial aid of Paris bankers, or sleeping in a pup tent pitched in the 
arid hills, eating beans and bacon from a tin plate and working 14 
hours a day in the rough and tumble of mountain surveying. Theodore 
Judah, the engineer of the Central Pacific in 'California, was a similar 
example of versatility, who alternated the luxurious life of a lobbyist 
in Washington with the hardships of surveying in the high Sierras. 
During his early surveys he had so little money at his disposal that his 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY I^ 

wife used to catch trout for the meals of his crew, counting it not only 
good sport but a valuable contribution to the party's supplies. To all 
these early engineers the building of the railroad was the only thing 
that mattered, and they cheerfully adapted themselves to whatever the 
circumstances of the moment might require. 

In these years as chief engineer. Dodge benefited from his previous 
Army explorations. He had been assigned to the Department of the 
Missouri in 1865 and 1866, charged with the Indian campaigns, with 
command from the Missouri River to California ; during this time he 
had had reports made by all troops and scouting parties concerning 
the resources and topography of the country, and later these were of 
much assistance to him in his railroad work. It was on one of the trips 
of this period that he accidentally discovered the pass through the 
Laramie Mountains over which the Union Pacific was finally routed. 
J. R. Perkins tells the story dramatically in his interesting biography 
of General Dodge, Trails, Rails and War:* 

All the way up the Chugwater, Dodge had scanned, through powerful 
glasses, the slopes of the Black Hills looking not for Indians but for some 
indications of an undiscovered pass through which a railroad might be 
built down into the Laramie Plains on the other side. Nothing had come 
of his observations, so he decided to ascend Cheyenne Pass, gain the 
summit of the range and follow the divide on southward, keeping his eyes 
open for a possible break through the granite slopes. He knew that on the 
western side of this range there was a grade not to exceed ninety feet to 
the mile, but on the eastern side, where he traveled, no pass had ever been 
discovered with a grade less than one hundred and sixteen feet to the mile, 
which made it impossible for the locomotive of that day to ascend with 
freight. For three hours Dodge and his thirteen men had crept along the 
ridge of the mountains when Leon Pallady reined in his horse and, pointing 
down the eastern slope, said: 

"Indians, and a lot of 'em." 

Dodge lifted his glasses and looked. A large band of Crows had worked 
in between him and his train. 

"How many?" he asked. 

" 'Bout three hundred," Pallady responded. 

"Do they see us?" 

"They've likely followed us all day, and aim to close in at night," was 
the guide's cheerful conclusion. 

*J. R. Perkins, Trails, Rails and War (copyright, 1929). Quoted by special 
permission of the publishers, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. 



l8 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Dodge was certain that the Crows were hostile, so he dismounted his 
men, placed the horses on the west side of the ridge and moved slowly 
down the summit. When they came to fuel, they lighted a fire, for he had 
arranged signals with the remainder of his escort. But the distant train 
toiled on along the base of the mountain, unaware that the commander 
and his little escort were in danger. 

The skirmishing soon began and Dodge quickly made the comfortable 
discovery that his rifles carried farther than those in the hands of the 
Crows. But the Indians began to creep from rock to rock, narrowing the 
semicircle they had formed, and getting to where their fire might be effec 
tive; moreover a band of about fifty started to scale the mountains with 
the obvious intention of cutting off retreat either north or south. Leon 
Pallady tumbled a venturesome Indian with a well-directed shot and two 
others had horses shot from beneath them. This caused greater caution on 
the part of their foes, who now began a slow and increasing accuracy of 
fire from more concealed places. 

Dodge's anxiety increased as the shadows began to lengthen down the 
slope, so he selected a strong position, built another great signal-fire and 
waited. The Indians crept closer and the spat of their bullets sounded 
against the boulders behind which the white men crouched. 

"Our men the cavalry," Leon Pallady unexpectedly cried, pointing 
toward a ravine that lay below them. 

Dodge's troops at last had seen his signal-fires and were making their 
way up the mountainside. The firing of the Crows suddenly ceased, and 
thirty minutes later Dodge and his little escort were surrounded by sea 
soned soldiers and Indian fighters. 

"Boys," Dodge said, as he gazed down a slope that seemed to lower 
gently to the plain, "I think we've discovered a pass through which we 
can build the Union Pacific." 

The men were about as much excited over this as they had been over 
the proximity of the Indians, and crowded around him for explanations. 
He pointed out to them that the Crows had fled down a slope to a creek 
a slope that looked as if it had a grade of less than one hundred feet to 
the mile. Ordering his troops to follow, down the slope he plunged, and, 
sure enough, it led, not to a great drop-off as might have been expected, 
but to a gentle depression. Crossing this depression, the company found 
a gradual descent to the plain and to their camp. The grade and pass thus 
discovered did not exceed ninety feet to the mile. Dodge marked the place 
by a lone tree, and over this ridge the Union Pacific was finally built. 

Because of his use of the surveyor's instruments the Indians called 
Dodge "Long Eye" and considered that he had miraculous powers. His 
mysterious telegraph wires also awed them. Of this marvel he wrote : 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY IQ 

When the overland telegraph was built, they were taught to respect it 
and not destroy it. This was done after the line was opened to Fort Laramie 
by stationing several of their most intelligent chiefs at Fort Laramie and 
others at Fort Kearny, the two posts being 300 miles apart, and having 
them talk to each other over the wire and note the time sent and received. 
Then we had them mount their fleetest horses and ride as fast as they 
could until they met at Old Jule's ranch, at the mouth of the Lodge Pole, 
this being about half way between Kearny and Laramie. Of course this 
was astonishing and mysterious to the Indians. Thereafter you could often 
see Indians with their heads against the telegraph poles, listening to the 
peculiar sound insulators* They thought, and said, it was "Big Medicine" 
talking. 

Although, as an Army officer and an engineer, he was continually 
called on to make war against the Indians both the fierce Indians of 
the Plains and those tamer specimens near Iowa who could be beaten 
off with a hoe-handle, Dodge's view of the Indian problem was not 
untouched with kindliness : 

There is not a tribe of Indians on the great plains or in the mountain 
regions east of Nevada and Idaho but which is warring on the whites. The 
first demand of the Indian is that the white man shall not come into his 
country; shall not kill or drive off the game upon which his subsistence 
depends; and shall not dispossess him of his lands. How can we promise 
this, with any hope or purpose of fulfilling the obligation, unless we prohibit 
immigration and settlement west of the Missouri river? So far from being 
prepared to make such engagement with the Indians, the government every 
day is stimulating immigration. Where under such circumstances is the 
Indian to go? It is useless for the government to think of undertaking to 
subsist large bodies of Indians in remote and inaccessible districts. What 
ever may be the right or wrong of the question our past experiences in 
America reveal that the Indian must for the most part be dispossessed. 
The practical question to be considered is how the inevitable can be accom 
plished with the least inhumanity. 

Beset by hostile savages, impeded by rugged mountain-ranges and 
great stretches of country without water, Dodge and his surveyors 
continued to seek the shortest, easiest way to the Pacific. But this was 
only part of their work. Besides the problem of easy grades and direct 
route, they had to consider the commercial possibilities of the country. 
Where was coal to be found? Where were the fertile farm-regions, the 
deposits of iron, gold, silver ? What were the resources of timber, stone, 



20 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and water-power ? All these varied matters had to be investigated and 
reported upon by the trail-blazers. 

In his Report of 1868 Dodge covered these questions: There were 
2,000,000 acres of farm-land within 200 miles west of Omaha ready for 
settlement; there were 1,152,000 acres on the Platte River between 
Fort Kearny and Julesburg that could be irrigated without much ex 
pense to the company, 1,000,000 acres more on the Laramie Plains, 
and 2,000,000 acres in the Green River valley. On the tributaries of 
the Green River were fine forests of pine, hemlock, and spruce. There 
was limestone for building west of Cheyenne. There were 5,000 square 
miles of coal-lands, bearing lignite, "which burns with a bright red 
flame, giving off a fair degre of heat, leaving scarcely any ashes, quite 
desirable for domestic purposes." There were beds of iron scattered along 
the route which, with the coal, could bring the West the wealth and 
industry that the same thing brought Pennsylvania in the East. There 
was much gold and silver in Colorado, the Black Hills, and Utah. 
After his survey of the country's resources he concluded : 

As soon as completed, the traffic over the Union Pacific railroad will be 
limited only by the capacity of the road. California, Washington, Oregon, 
Nebraska, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado will soon fill 
up. Their precious metals, their rich soil and unequalled climate, will 
inaugurate a business and a trade that will soon demand another track, 
and which no man. to-day can even estimate. Without the Union Pacific 
railroad, the country west of the Missouri river would be a burden to the 
government, and almost an uninhabitable waste; with it, it will soon be an 
empire, and one of our principal elements of power and strength. 

It was upon such data as these that the directors of the railroad, 
sitting around a table in New York, could raise money to finance 
operations and lay plans for the development of traffic. From those 
laconic reports they could visualize the empire that was to be, with its 
checker-boards of waving grain and pasture, its irrigated orchards, its 
coal-mines and factories, its thriving cities and prosperous people. 
Surely the whole fate of the enterprise as an engineering project, as a 
commercial success, and as a factor in upbuilding the country de 
pended on the judgment, skill, and personal force of a few hardy and 
intrepid engineer-builders such as General Dodge. 

No less versatile was that other engineer-soldier, General William J. 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 21 

Palmer, the man who was one of the leading figures in the building 
of the Kansas Pacific and who afterwards conceived and constructed 
the railroad system that follows the base of the Rockies, the Denver 
and Rio Grande. General Palmer began his career as a surveyor of 
railroads in Pennsylvania, and he accompanied President J. Edgar 
Thompson of the Pennsylvania Railroad as secretary when that official 
was sent abroad to investigate European railroads. He organized troops 
at the beginning of the Civil War, became colonel and brigadier-general, 
and was ranked by General George H. Thomas, "the Rock of Chicka- 
mauga," as the best cavalry officer in the service, bar none. At the close 
of the war he was ordered to pursue Jefferson Davis to the ends of the 
earth, and he finally drove the President of the Confederacy into the 
arms of the Union officers by whom he was captured. His "Reports of 
Surveys" for the Kansas Pacific cover not only the route from Kansas 
City to Denver, but also the southern 32d- and 35th-parallel routes to 
the Pacific now followed by the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe. 

Included in General Palmer's surveying party was a young English 
man, William A. Bell, Master of Arts and Bachelor of Medicine from 
Cambridge University, who joined as a photographer and, knowing 
nothing of photography, prepared himself for the post remarkably well 
by the "cramming" process, studying with professional photographers 
in New York the elaborate technique then necessary. He saw the 
country with the fresh eyes of a foreigner, and he wrote so well of his 
experiences that he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical 
Society. His book New Tracks in North America, published in London 
in 1869, is the most complete informal story available of the Palmer 
surveys and gives a colorful picture of the life of the surveying parties 
of his day. After several months with one party as photographer Bell 
joined another as "doctor," and thus he saw the country from the 
Mid-Western plains to San Francisco with a side trip through Mexico. 
He later became one of Palmer's most trusted business associates and 
a lifelong citizen of Colorado. 

This is the typical routine of Palmer's railroad surveyors moving 
across the Western plains, as described by Bell: 

Two days previously, the line of survey had been run across this country 
for six miles, so that, as soon as our wagons came to the end of this line, 
the engineer corps commenced work, and continued it onward as fast as 



22 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

possible. The ground had to be measured, stakes driven in at regular 
intervals, and every undulation of the surface had to be accurately deter 
mined by means of proper instruments; and this had to be done through 
an Indian country, which was, moreover, so dry that it was probable we 
should not find a drop of water along the whole seventy-two miles. The 
greatest possible expedition was therefore required on the part of the 
surveyors, and their achievements across this country were really won 
derful. 

There were under General Wright, at that time, three parties or divisions, 
each capable of running a line independently. At Fort Wallace, the transit- 
man, leveller, and topographer of each division, had obtained mules, and 
one of the wagons had been emptied of its contents, and devoted, for a 
time, to the surveyors. One division commenced work, and the men were 
soon spread out into line a mile long, upon the plain, measuring and taking 
observations at every point. On one side of this line came the wagons, 
following each other closely, and guarded by a small body of the escort. 
The remainder of the cavalry moved with the surveyors some in front, 
others in the rear, and the greater number in the centre, so that, being 
between this body of cavalry and the wagon train, the long line of sur 
veyors was well protected. The transit-man^ carrying his instrument on his 
shoulder, and riding a mule at a gallop, would suddenly stop, jump off, 
arrange the transit, wave to the flagman ahead, wait until satisfied of the 
correctness of his observation, then back into the saddle, shoulder his 
transit, and gallop away again. Behind him came the rodmen an&Jevellers, 
mounted in the same way, and advancing with a like rapid acgjkacy. It 
was very hard on the mules, but by five o'clock that evening fifteen miles 
had been chained, located, and levelled no chance nor guess-work, but 
an accurate preliminary survey. 

Under a July sun this activity could not possibly be kept up indefinitely; 
so, about every two hours, when one party was tired, those in the emptied 
wagon would relieve them, while the men who had been working would 
get in and rest. In this manner the day passed by, and evening came. After 
working until it was too dark to see any longer, we halted; and, too tired 
for the most part to pitch tents, threw our blankets on the ground, and 
soon fell asleep. Our day's march was twenty-one miles, but of these, six 
had been surveyed before 

During the next day our tired animals toiled along over the endless 
undulations of the dreary, arid plain, occasionally crossing dry water 
courses, but nowhere was there a drop to drink. About five o'clock, far 
away on the horizon, a number of black specks came in view. At first, even 
with the glasses, we could not make them out; though they were evidently 
moving and coming towards us. In half an hour we could plainly see that 
they were a herd of over one hundred buffalo. At this sight our hopes of 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 23 

finding water were greatly revived; for at eventide so large a herd would 
certainly not be found far from it. I could not resist a chase, although 
early that morning I had had a successful one. On my way towards the 
herd I saw evidence of a heavy local rain, and on my return found our 
party camped within half-a-mile of some large pools of water. Since morn 
ing we had travelled twenty-one miles, and the engineers had surveyed a 
line the whole of the way. In a very few minutes our clothes were thrown 
off, and, like shouting school-boys, we were splashing each other in the 
sparkling water. These pools were all transitory, and probably in less than 
a week afterwards had disappeared into the sandy soil. 

Next day long before the streak of pink and gold, so beautiful in this 
region, had begun to appear in the east, the heavy sleepers were roused. 
By five o'clock the engineers were at their transits and levels; and as 
General Wright was desirous that the train should accompany the sur 
veyors, the unfed animals were slowly pulling the wagons through the 
yielding earth. As the day advanced, the mules of the engineers began to 
give out; still the party, both mounted and on foot, kept bravely on 
through the scorching heat, until twenty-three miles of the desert had been 
staked, levelled, and chained. By this time the sun was setting; and the hot 
wind coming from the south, sent up clouds of dust. As no Sand Creek 
came across our path, I started on a-head about four o'clock with the 
chief wagon-master to search for it, and, if possible, to find water to camp 
by. We kept a little to the right, and after a ride of ten miles came to a 
broad arroyo, or dry bed, which we thought might be Sand Creek. This we 
followed for four miles ; but not finding a trace of water, returned at sun 
down to camp. Two or three tents were being pitched, while several of the 
party, from the top of a lofty undulation, were intently viewing through 
their glasses a distant row of trees, and a long silver thread, winding away 
to the eastward. Could it be water, or only a mirage? Perhaps a bank of 
shining sand in some dry water-course! 

As the setting sun lit up the horizon, there seemed to be no doubt, from 
its breadth, that, if it were water, it must be the Arkansas. General Wright 
consulted his maps, and concluded that this was impossible, as the Arkansas 
River could not be less than thirty-two miles distant. So we halted for the 
night. All our stock were suffering terribly for want of water. The horses 
stood motionless on three legs, with ruffled coats and drooping necks, now 
and then snuffing the dry parched grass, and refusing even to look at their 
corn. The mules, as is their wont, did manage to eat up their corn, but they 
made the night hideous with their frightful cries. A hundred mules uniting 
their voices at intervals in chorus, louder and more frequent as the night 
changes into morning; kicking at each other, and rattling their chains, in 
vain efforts to escape and quench their burning thirst: these form perhaps 
the most diabolical combination of sounds that ever broke the slumbers of 



24 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

a worn-out traveller. Such was the conclusion I came to, as I watched 
with impatience the first streak of day. 

In the middle of the summer 1867, at about the time when the young 
Englishman had become acclimated to the life of the surveying party, 
it was joined by two new members who shared his tent, General 
Palmer and his aide, Captain W. F. Colton. Palmer had gained such a 
reputation for his qualities of leadership and executive ability that he 
had been elevated to the office of secretary-treasurer of the Kansas Pa 
cific and had been active in its negotiations for financial aid. He now 
came west to supplant General W. W. Wright, who had been active head 
of the surveys. Although he was a man who peculiarly enjoyed a life of 
luxury and ease and who moved in the best circles of Philadelphia 
society, he also found pleasure in roughing it and was thoroughly at 
home in the field. As he had written his friend Isaac Clothier, a young 
man who later became head of one of Philadelphia's large department 
stores, when he was surveying for the Pennsylvania Railroad, 

I am in the field nearly all the time, from early in the morning till late in 
the evening, tramping over hills and across valleys, through woods and 
through fields of grain. Nothing stops us for a railroad line must be a 
straight one a locomotive is not a proficient in turning corners. So a 
locating party travels in a bee line it cannot avoid a hill or go round a 
pond or choose its own walking. It must tramp right over the one and 
ford the other and walk by the points of the compass. We sometimes get 
pretty rough fare too we stop once in a while at a roadside inn where 
they pack the whole corps engineers, rodmen and axemen in the same 
sleeping apartment and that one apartment none of the best. 

And later, when urging Clothier and other friends to join him in the 
Army, he said : 

Now, all you "light, active, and hardy young men" in Penna. who desire 
special service, I give you fair warning. If you join the Anderson cavalry, 
you must expect to behave as soldiers, to fare as soldiers, and to be treated 
as such. There is no special service in this army that I know of which 
exempts a trooper from cleaning his horse, or from living on hard crackers 
and pork occasionally, and sometimes more frequently. The service is 
healthy to a sedentary man, interesting, and if performed well, highly 
honorable but there is no exemption with this Regt. from the usual 
fatigue, hardships and dangers of a cavalry man's life. How'd you like 
to join? 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 25 

At this time Palmer was still under 30, though, as Bell says, "active 
service in the war, and the responsibility of being the moving spirit of 
a great company, have added a few years, in moral influence at least." 
Under his guidance there now began a series of explorations which 
added immeasurably to his knowledge of the West, its potentialities 
and its needs, and which probably directly determined the part he was 
to play in the upbuilding of the Rocky Mountain section. 

The first trip of the three men, in advance of the slow-moving sur 
veying parties, was to Santa Fe. They set out with a Mexican guide, 
one servant, and a wagon carrying luggage and provisions drawn by 
two weedy Mexican mules. Says Bell: 

A poor crippled Mexican as driver, who had at one time barely escaped 
from the Indians with his life, completed the outfit, the best we could get 
at Las Vegas, but one which broke down, as might have been expected, at 
the first difficulty we encountered. We carried no tents; Palmer, Colton 
and the guide were on horseback, I had to content myself with a mule, an 
animal by no means to be despised in the Far West provided he be a good 
one. Our spirits were high and our hearts light, as we felt the freedom of 
travelling quite independently, and we watched with all the interest which 
the great object of our trip inspired, the general features of the beautiful 
country as they opened before us at every step. 

Difficulties beset them. Their wagon stuck in the Rio Pecos, and 
they were forced to empty it and carry each piece of luggage across the 
rapid river, with the water above their waists; after which they put 
themselves in the harness and dragged the wagon through. Raids of 
Navajo Indians were reported, and a close watch had to be kept. Their 
diet was decidedly limited until they reached the Pecos valley, where 
they rejoiced to find a Mexican farmer who brought them fine large 
watermelons, onions, eggs, and fowls. Since their search was for coal- 
and mineral-lands as well as for railroad routes, they detoured to the 
Placer Mountains and entered a barren country of disordered grandeur 
between the Placers and the Santa Fe Range, so wild as to fill them 
with awe. It was a good introduction to their southwestern explora 
tionsa waste of crags and canons, deep-red cliffs, and precipices whose 
sides were striped with rocks of every hue, appearing to have been 
burned, in some fierce furnace. "It seemed as if, having left purgatory 
behind, we had at last come to the gate of hell. The wag of our party 



26 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

remarked that here the devil must have frizzled all the Christians in 
the land, so that it was no wonder we so seldom came across any." 

In the Placer Mountains, which were nearly all covered by two 
Spanish land-grants owned by Americans, the party found old gold- and 
galena-mines, which had been worked by the early Spaniards and later 
stopped up by the Indians, and coal that "has a beautiful lustre, 
fractures easily into blocks and does not blacken the fingers when 
touched." They agreed that if it should be found well suited for smelt 
ing the iron ore of the neighborhood, its value would be great ; indeed, 
the destinies of the country when tapped by a railroad, they thought, 
could hardly be conjectured. Traveling among the hospitable, easy 
going Spanish, they noted the soft and religious names that had been 
given to mountains, rivers, and towns El Sangre de Cristo ("Blood 
of Christ"), Santa Fi de San Francisco de Asis ("City of the Holy 
Faith of St. Francis"), Trinidad ("Trinity"), and they contrasted these 
with the harsh names of the mining towns of Colorado Cash Creek, 
Buckskin Joe, Fair Play, Tarryall, Strip-and-at-him Mine. In these 
names was manifested the contrast between the rough, virile Anglo- 
Saxon pioneer and the indolent, religious-minded Mexican, expressing 
the last stand of the old Spanish civilization which was already being 
absorbed and overshadowed by the new American. But however de 
cadent the civilization, it had ample charm, and the travelers rejoiced 
to reach the old Spanish town of Santa Fe, where they settled down 
to a few days of rest and entertainment. 

Their visit was enlivened by a Mexican dance and the climax of a 
political campaign, which Bell describes: 

The ball was a strange sight. In a room sixty feet long by twenty wide, 
was collected at about nine o'clock a very considerable proportion of the 
youth and beauty of the town, which, however, is not paying the fair sex 
present any particular compliment. They wore roboses, often gracefully 
thrown over their heads, gay coloured dresses, big brooches and pendant 
earrings, smoked sigarettas incessantly, and sat quietly on forms placed 
around the room, waiting for any one who should choose to ask them to 
dance. The band occupied a platform, and consisted of a clarionet, a 
French horn, and three large brass instruments which groaned out the bass. 
At the other end of the room, slightly partitioned off, stood the bar, and 
it was customary at the conclusion of every dance to take your fair 
charmer to the counter and pay an exorbitant sum for sweetmeats, fruit, 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 27 

wine, or cocktails, as the case might be. In fact the luxury of each dance 
represented half a dollar, which, being interpreted, means "one-and-six" ; 
thus, although no admittance is paid at the door, a reckless votary to the 
giddy dance would find his evening's amusement rather expensive. The 
dancing, however, was well worth watching; for those sunburnt brunettes 
glide most gracefully through the languid and suggestive movements of 
their Spanish dances. An occasional quadrille was formed in honour of the 
Americans present; and thus the evening passed away with quadrille, 
drinks slow waltz, drinks Spanish reel, drinks mazurka, drinks and so 
on, with sigarettas ad libitum. 

The Delegate to Congress for New Mexico was elected during our visit, 
and caused for the time a great deal of excitement. The inhabitants here 
know or care very little either about the squabbles between North and 
South, the nigger question, or the fundamental difference between a 
Copper-head and a War-Democrat. Mr. Clever represented the American 
Party, whose motto was, of course, Progress. Mr. Chavez, his rival, was a 
Mexican, and advocated the individual interests of the large landowners, 
who felt the raid against peonage, and the increased price of labour, caused 
by the developing influence of the new-comers, to be greatly prejudicial to 
their interests. The American party, for the first time, carried the day, 
and their victory was commemorated by a ball to Clever and Progress, 
and other appropriate rejoicings. Some of the young ladies who were 
present we had met before at Fort Union ; they did not consider a hundred- 
mile drive at all too long for so great an occasion as the Santa Fe ball. 
In this I quite agreed with them. 

During the festivities General Palmer found time to collect informa 
tion about the country to the west and the best route for the railroad 
to the Pacific. He held a continuous levee in his rooms, which were 
always crowded with men either interested in the railway or well ac 
quainted with some portion of the country to the westward. Indeed, so 
much conflicting testimony was given concerning the relative merits 
of the 32d- and 35th-parallel routes that the General finally decided 
that both routes must be examined. So more surveyors were sent for, 
and five parties were organized, two going south on the 32 d parallel 
below the Gila River and three following the 3Sth-parallel route through 
northern Arizona. Bell went with one of the southern parties; Palmer 
took charge of one of the northern. 

One of the tasks set Bell's party was to find a new pass through the 
Mimbres Mountains. The only route then in use was known as Cooke's 
Pass, but Palmer had heard at Santa Fe that another pass existed more 



28 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to the north, that a train of wagons had once passed over it, and that 
it was practicable for a railroad. They now set to work to find this 
pass. The Mexican guide had never even heard of it; but, nothing 
daunted, as Bell reports, 

We started at daybreak next morning, a little party of six, tip into the 
mountains. By twelve o'clock we were resting our panting horses and sur 
veying the peaks all around us from a grass-covered eminence. Looking 
westward, we saw, a few miles distant, a deep break in the mountains, and 
a canon, or narrow arroyo, leading to it. This we followed. Every mile it 
became better and smoother, and opened straight upon the plain without 
any precipitous descent. Our delight was great ; so we determined to turn 
back, and trace the canon, if possible, across the median line of the moun 
tains, and see if it opened upon the eastern plain from which we had 
come. After riding all day, we came in view of the eastern plain, just as 
sufficient light remained to see it, and to prove that our labour had not 
been in vain. We were still far from camp; mountains were all around us; 
the sun had set; there was no moon; and darkness soon covered every 
thing. We could not so much as see the face of our compass, and had to 
keep in the closest single file, for fear of losing each other. 

It was in such a predicament as this that the wonderful faculty of 
locality, which is peculiar to the semi-civilized man, shone out conspicu 
ously. Not one of us could tell even the direction of camp ; yet the Mexican 
guide brought us straight to it, after a three hours' ride, over country he 
had never traversed before, and this, too, in pitch darkness. It was never 
theless a rough ride, for, regardless of obstacles, we went straight over 
everything, walking, climbing, and riding in turns, until the sight of our 
watchfires gladdened our hearts. Our poor horses were quite worn-out, for 
they had travelled at least fifty miles over the pathless mountains. 

Next day they continued the survey and discovered the entrance to 
what they named Palmer's Pass, the summit of which was 5,854 feet 
high; the average grade was less than 100 feet per mil^on the surface, 
which, they estimated, could be lessened to about 75 f&ef%n construc 
tion. After this Bell continued, with varying vicissitudes, through 
southern Arizona and Mexico, suffering the hardships of traveling 
through an unpeopled desert, and finally reached the Gulf of California, 
whence he took passage for San Francisco by boat. 

General Palmer, exploring the 35th-parallel route westward, passed 
through the mountainous country of northern Arizona that is now 
traversed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. His diary recounts 
how he scrambled among the mountains for weeks, having parted from 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 2Q 

tents and wagons, and found some of the country too rugged even for 
pack-animals, which are popularly supposed to hold their footing any 
where. Again and again his strong mules, struggling along some pre 
cipitous Indian trail, slipped, rolled over, and fell to death. All around 
him were signs of Indian occupancy the "wicky-up" wigwams of 
bunch-grass and branches; the mescal heaps, where they had been 
roasting their winter supplies ; the earth ovens, which they climbed into 
to sweat themselves when sick. Although they saw no Indians, they 
felt sure that the Apaches were on their trail and were waiting to 
surround them. Let Palmer tell what happened : 

The dread moment finally came, when the party was in a deep canon 
strewn with fragments of red sandstone, from the size of a church to that 
of a pebble, over which we dragged our foot-sore animals very slowly. We 
had made some eight miles when, as it seemed, at the roughest part of the 
whole way, where nature had made a sort of waste closet at random for 
all the shapeless blocks and sharp-cornered masses of rock and washed-out 
boulders that she had no time to work up and wished to hide from sight, 
we suddenly heard a shot from the brink of the canon at our rear, and the 
dreaded war-whoop burst upon us. Then we looked up to the right and left, 
ahead and to the rear; but the walls seemed everywhere as tall as a church- 
steeple, with scarcely a foot-hold from top to base. They had looked high 
before, and the chasm narrow, but now it seemed as though we were 
looking up from the bottom of a deep well or a tin-mine, and no bucket to 
draw us up by. Soon the shots were repeated, and the yells were followed 
by showers of arrows. We staggered and stumbled, about as fast as a very 
slow ox-team, along the rocky bed, till we came to some bushes, and then 
stopped. 

Some of the Indians had got on the edge of the canon ahead of us, whose 
yells answered those from the rear; and the whole concatenation of sounds 
echoed among the cliffs till it seemed to us that every rancheria in Arizona 
had poured out its dusky warriors to overwhelm us. It was a yell of 
triumph of confidence. It appeared to say, "Oh, ye wise and boastful 
white men, with your drilled soldiers and repeating guns, and wealth and 
power, who came out to hunt the poor Indian from his wigwam, look where 
we have got you! We have only been waiting for you to make some blunder; 
now we shall take advantage of it, and not let any of you escape. It shall 
be worse than at Fort Kearny, for not even one shall be spared to tell the 
story. It will be a good place to bury you; in fact, you are already 
buried in as deep a grave as you could wish. We shall only leave you there, 
that is all, ha! ha! What are your Spencer carbines worth, and your sol 
diers with their fine uniforms and drill? It is only the old lesson we are 



30 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

teaching you: our forefathers taught it to Braddock, and it has been 
repeated many times since; but we shall drive it into you deeper than ever 
it has been before, ha! ha! You thought we had all gone, but our eyes 
were never off you; and now we are gathering our warriors from every 
hiding-place. This is the way we call them out whoop! whoop! whoop! 
and they are lining the edge of the canon before and behind you. You can 
take your time. It is only ten miles to the mouth; and the farther you go, 
the deeper the canons get. Perhaps you wish to retreat? It is only eight 
miles back, and you know what sort of a path it is. From the cedars on the 
brink we will pick you off at our leisure, and you shall not see one of us. 
This country belongs to us the whole of it; and we do not want your 
people here, nor your soldiers, nor your railroad. Get away to where you 
belong if you can, ha! ha!" It was not all this in detail, but the sum and 
concentration of it, that flashed through my mind as I listened to those 
yells, now rising clear and wild on the breeze, and now dying away in 
the distance. 

The contest between the surveyors and the Indians continued for 
days, each side trying to outmanoeuver the other. When the Indians 
rolled great rocks down from the top of the cliff, the party deployed, 
and Palmer headed a group which set out on the dangerous task of 
scaling the cliff. Amid a fire of protecting shots from the rest of the 
party, war-whoops of Indians, and shouts and calls from the men be 
low, the seven men finally reached the top exhausted, wet with per 
spiration, hands cut and bleeding and boots nearly torn off, and 
the Indians disappeared for the time being. They had to descend other 
canons, however, in constant fear of the redskins; and they made 
their way by night through the underbrush and over the boulders of a 
ravine, fording the stream twenty times yet being unable to light a 
fire to warm themselves for fear the Indians might see it. After travel 
ing the equivalent of 60 miles on level ground they scrambled out over 
the top, faint from hunger and fatigue and with no hope of escaping 
the Indians, when they were surprised to see the welcome smoke of 
their own camp in the near distance, half a mile away. But so exhausted 
was the General that at this unexpected good fortune his legs refused 
to carry him the short distance remaining ; so he made a fire, lay down 
to sleep, and sent his servant for food and whiskey. 

Such hardships were typical of the long exploratory trip General 
Palmer made through the Grand Canon country of northern Arizona 
and into California, a trip which resulted in a "Report of Surveys" 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 31 

which is a classic, summarizing the terrain and advantages of the 
various routes from the Rockies to the Pacific routes which are now 
occupied by great transcontinental railways. From September to 
February Palmer and his companions continued their difficult, rough 
journey to the coast. William Bell, at San Francisco, had had no news 
of them and impatiently waited their arrival. 

At the end of the seventh week, my own party arrived by sea from San 
Pedro; two days later, another came in from the 35th parallel; and the 
next morning, when I went from my hotel, the Cosmopolitan, to hear the 
latest news at the Occidental, in came five of the shabbiest-looking fellows 
I ever saw. Their coats were torn, their caps washed into shapeless mush 
rooms of felt, their faces tanned and bearded, and their figures covered 
with mud; these were Palmer, Colton, Calhoun, Parry, and Willis; all my 
old friends had arrived together. What congratulations we had! How we 
startled the Frisco dandies who were languidly perusing the morning 
papers; with what determination they (Palmer and party, not the dandies) 
sat down to breakfast while the waiters covered the table with the choicest 
fare of the best hotel in the States; and how they enjoyed that first square 
meal of civilization. 

By his dangerous, rough-and-tumble journey Palmer had cleared 
his mind on the problem of routes to the Pacific. He had found that 
easy grades could be maintained through northern Arizona over what 
is now the Santa Fe route, and that there was little advantage in the 
32d-parallel or southern Pacific route so long and enthusiastically 
touted by Jefferson Davis. His final conclusions were that although 
the western half of the continent was not an agricultural paradise, it 
was far from being a desert as many had supposed. He had found that 
it was everywhere inhabitable and that there were frequent areas good 
for farming, while to the grazier it offered a vast, almost uninterrupted 
belt of superior pasturage, extending from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean, 
on which horses, mules, cattle, and sheep could be raised in countless 
herds as cheaply, perhaps, as anywhere in the world. Moreover, the 
mildness of the climate would enable more than one crop to be raised 
in a season, permit stock, without care, to fare as well in winter as in 
summer, and add grapes, cotton, and other semitropical fruits or 
products to those of the temperate latitudes. Good wheat s could be 
grown, and if thorough methods of cultivation were adopted, irrigation 
would not be necessary in many sections. As to minerals, the hills and 



32 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

mountains contained an amount of mineral wealth of all kinds, the 
useful as well as the precious, which could be considered practically 
inexhaustible. From the Arkansas River to the western spurs of the 
Coast Range, near San Francisco, a distance of 1,500 miles, the 
mountains, never out of sight, might almost be said to possess con 
tinuous deposits of one kind or another of valuable minerals. Palmer 
concluded his report on the territory he had explored by saying, "When 
it is remembered how little and how carelessly this vast territory, the 
home of savage Indians, has been explored by white men, and that, 
even in the small and old-settled district of Cornwall, where mining 
was carried on before the Christian era, and where the earth has been 
burrowed for ages at a great depth, new discoveries are still made of 
tin and copper lodes, we may well wonder at the amount of hidden 
treasures which the few disclosures already made would indicate." 

As to the other benefits of his long trip, General Palmer further 
wrote that a little experience of hardship such as he had suffered 

enables you to determine a number of nice problems which otherwise 
might never have been solved, to say nothing of the new phases in which it 
exhibits the character of your comrades; the test of their true-heartedness, 
their pluck, perseverance, and generosity. There are also some important 
minor questions to which it supplies accurate solutions. For instance, how 
would a man ever know whether a smooth boulder of lava or a flat sand 
stone slab would make the best pillow, until such occasions had induced 
him to test the matter practically at frequent intervals during the same 
night? And how could he ever ascertain the durability of a pair of Santa 
Fe boots under active service, until a trail of this kind had placed it 
forcibly before his observation? And while he might hitherto have had a 
theoretical appreciation of the value and excellence of a slice of fat pork 
with "hard tack" for dessert, it is doubtful whether he would ever com 
prehend the essential sweetness and delicacy of these dishes until, after 
twenty-four hours' fasting, he had watched with a field-glass across a canon 
until they should start out towards him from a camp two miles distant. 

It was such -first-hand knowledge as this trip produced that enabled 
the young engineer to understand the future possibilities of the West 
and to determine in his own mind that there must be a railroad north 
and soulja at the foot of the Rockies to tap this rich country from 
Wyoming to Mexico and feed the transcontinental railroads. When : 
later, his suggestion to this effect was turned down by the Kansas 



GRENVILLE M. DODGE OAKES AMES 

GEORGE FRANCIS TRAIN 
WILLIAM J. PALMER DAVID F. MOFFAT 

Dodge, courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad; Ames, from H. H. Bancroft, 
Chronicles of the Builders of the Commonwealth; Train, from the collection of 
Frederick Meserve, New York; Palmer, courtesy of the Colorado Springs Chamber 
of Commerce; Moffat, from William N. Byers, Encyclopedia of Biography of 
Colorado. 



THE SURVEYORS WHO CLEARED THE WAY 33 

Pacific, he resigned as secretary-treasurer of the company and began 
the project himself by organizing the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. 
As he and Bell and Colton journeyed back to Denver by stage, 
Palmer was probably mulling over these things in his mind and making 
the plans for development of the Rocky Mountain country and its 
railroads which afterwards brought him fame and fortune. But the 
trip back was a merry one and a welcome relaxation after the months 
of roughing it. Bell recounts that 

When Palmer, Colton, myself, and another passenger, had seated our 
selves and packed away our wraps and blankets, to use whenever any 
great increase of elevation should make it very cold, the agent called out 
for Mr. Leland of the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco, and as Mr. Leland 
did not respond to the summons, he had forcibly to be conducted from the 
bar-room by his friends (to whom he had been saying good-bye in the 
usual manner nearly all the morning), and pushed with difficulty, blanket, 
coat, and all, through the door of the mud-wagon; then came half-a- 
dozen blankets to match the coat, and sealskin boots reaching to the hips; 
then a large bag, labelled muck-a-muck, which he soon informed us was 
food for the journey, should we need anything between times; then came a 
gallon keg of whiskey, then a second ditto, then a third, a fourth, and, 
lastly, a demijohn of the same. Bang went the door! "All aboard? 
Whoops! " shouted the driver, as he cracked the whip over the leaders; and 
thus, amidst a chorus of cheers from our new acquaintances, and a long 
string of messages to Tom, Dick, and Harry from the stentorian voice of 
Leland, as he bid them good-bye, we bumped and rattled through Virginia 
City. The whiskey was all finished before we reached Salt Lake; and, 
although it was at times a nuisance, and notwithstanding the fact that the 
owner of it drank with every one along the road, whether they wished or 
not, it was, nevertheless, a source of great amusement, and probably helped 
the horses, through the driver, out of many a tight place. 

Four kinds of conveyance were required to make the i ,350-mile trip 
from San Francisco to the Laramie Mountains, over which Pullman 
cars would soon travel: 124 miles were covered by steamboat, 92 by 
rail, 250 by sledges, and the rest in "mud-wagons." The ride from 
Cheyenne to Denver brought out the full beauty of the mountain 
country. "The Rocky Mountains lay in full view of us all the way, 
gradually increasing in grandeur as we neared Denver," writes Bell; 
"the moon was very brilliant, and the view over the plains to- the 
eastward presented an endless expanse of undulating whiteness ; upon 



34 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

which the moonlight played like phosphorescence on the sea. The com 
plete solitude, the vastness of the expanse on all sides, the clatter of 
the four-in-hand as they dashed along at a gallop, the keen sharp air, 
and the refreshing influences of a long night's rest made this drive 
inexpressibly delightful." This ride must have been balm to Palmer's 
spirit, for the beauties of the Rockies he never tired; he wrote and 
talked of them all his life, the climate and the scenery being equally 
important, in his mind, with the commercial resources. As he once 
wrote his friend Isaac Clothier, pointing out the value of the traffic in 
timber, coal, gold, and silver that would accrue to the railroad at the 
base of the Rockies, "The weather is quite exhausting here in Wash 
ington, and I long once more to be in the Rocky Mountains. I often 
find myself doubting that a kind Providence ever intended man to 
dwell on the Atlantic slope. 5 ' Perhaps it was on this moonlight ride to 
Denver that Palmer made up his mind to cast his lot with Colorado 
and her glorious mountains for the rest of his life. 



CHAPTER III 

THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 

WHEN General Dodge, on leave of absence from the Army, 
took charge as chief engineer of the actual building of the 
Union Pacific in 1866, he found a chaotic, blundering, and 
utterly ineffective organization, or, rather, lack of organization. The 
construction and the operation of the railroad were being carried on 
separately under orders from different groups of officials in New York, 
none of whom knew anything about building a railroad across the 
plains ; there was no head of the work west of the Missouri ; the New 
York office men quarreled among themselves ; the route had not been 
finally fixed, and engineering parties were roaming aimlessly around the 
prairies, some of them unpaid for months ; while the road itself con 
sisted of two streaks of rust jutting out into the Territory of Nebraska, 
which were likened to the man in the song who said, "I don't know 
where I'm going but I'm on my way." 

Knowing full well from his Army experience the dangers of a divided 
command, and being aware of the difficulties involved in constructing 
a railroad through a territory with neither law nor order, Dodge had 
told Thomas C. Durant, vice-president and general manager, that he 
would accept the post of chief engineer only on condition that he be 
given absolute control in the field, without interference from any 
officials in New York or elsewhere. Having spent $500,000 and pro 
duced just 40 miles of track, over level prairie land, Durant, despite 
his itch to manage the project himself, was ready to turn it over to the 
one man who could confidently be expected to make it succeed. It was 
said that about half of the $500,000 had gone into Durant's own 
pocket, and he probably thought that pocket would not be comfortingly 
filled with Union Pacific money again unless the railroad should 
actually be built. So Dodge was given the job. 
A month later he had organized the building of the Union Pacific 

35 



36 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

along lines of military efficiency with all departments under his own 
unified command; and surveying, Indian-fighting, and track-laying 
were going forward simultaneously. Within two months more Dodge 
had the two Casement brothers, General Jack S. and Daniel, at work 
with a thousand men and a hundred teams laying track at furious 
speed. His formula for pushing the construction work was simple. He 
selected the two men best qualified for the job, gave them ample sup 
plies, and to the track-layers, who were "ex-Confederate and Federal 
soldiers, mule skinners, Mexicans, New York Irish, bushwhackers and 
ex-convicts from the older prisons of the East," he said, "Boys, I want 
you to do just what Jack Casement tells you to do. We've got to beat 
that Central Pacific crowd." 

Thus the elements of a contest entered into the building of the 
Union Pacific, for a second road, the Central Pacific, was now pushing 
its tracks east from California as fast as it could. And this spirit of 
rivalry combined with a sense of loyalty to General Dodge to give 
these hardy laborers incentive to excel in speeding the tracks towards 
the Pacific. It was a rough-and-ready, happy-go-lucky crowd of Paddies, 
troopers, and toughs who laid the tracks of the Union Pacific. The 
preponderance of men who had been in the Army, the leadership of 
General Dodge, General Casement, and other military men, the use 
of troops to protect the workers against the Indians, all gave the enter 
prise something of the racy flavor of war without all its dangers. More 
over, there was freedom such as soldiers seldom know, for there was 
plenty of money in circulation and plenty of opportunity to spend it 
with the collection of gambling-games and dance-halls that followed 
the construction camps and received the euphonious title of "hell-on- 
wheels." 

Altogether, it was a rough, dangerous, dirty, sweating, hard-working, 
hard-drinking, free-spending life that this army of track-layers lived as 
they pushed the steel rails across the plains. They worked long hours 
under a fiercely burning sun in summer and in bitter cold in winter, 
for the plains climate ranged the extremes of heat and cold. A day's 
routine would read something like this : In the morning the men are 
up early in the boarding-train, wash in tin basins, eat a hearty break 
fast, and set out to the job. Heavy work at plowing, shoveling and 
grading, or placing ties, carrying and spiking rails, keeps up till noon, 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 37 

when everybody knocks off an hour for a heavy dinner. Pitchers of 
steaming coffee ; pans of soup ; platters heaped with fried meat, roast 
meat, vegetables, potatoes; iron dishes of cold, watery canned 
tomatoes ; condensed milk diluted with water ; canned fruit, cakes, and 
pies make up the hearty menu. Little conversation enlivens the meal ; 
the men are there to eat, and they make a business of it. In 15 or 20 
minutes they are out of the cook-house, sitting around their bunks, 
smoking, sewing on buttons, or taking a little "shut-eye" and when 
was sleep ever so sound or so efficiently refreshing as the half-hour 
snatched from heavy, muscle-straining work in the middle of a long, 
hard day? 

At one o'clock the walking boss routs them out, herds them back to 
the job, and for an hour or so spurs them on to their labors with 
exhortations and profanity so as to overcome the noontime lassitude. 
Cy Warman, in his Story of the Railroad, gives this picture of the 
walking-boss foreman: 

He has his eye constantly upon the men. In ferocity he approaches nearer 
to the ideal sea captain than any man on the work. If a man is caught 
soldiering, he is jacked up; the next time he is jacked up a little higher; 
and with the third offence the walking boss calls the time-keeper, whom he 
orders to give the man his time, adding, for the enlightenment of the others, 
that this is not a Salvation Army, but a grading outfit. As a parting shot 
to the discharged man, he advises him to buy a drum if he wants to be a 
soldier. This little incident has a good effect. A hundred whips crack, and 
at the end of an hour each of the one hundred teams has brought in an 
extra scraper of dirt. At twenty cents, five scrapers to the yard, this means, 
for a hundred scrapers, five dollars; and that is where the skill of the 
walking boss comes in, and it counts. 

In the late afternoon, "time" is called again, and the men have an 
hour to rest before supper, a more leisurely meal, after which they 
return to the bunk-house cars, where card games are soon in progress 
and the air is thick with pipe smoke and murky with talk, perhaps talk 
somewhat akin to the "railroad talk" of later years, which was said 
to consist entirely of "whiskey and women and higher wages and 
shorter hours." Or maybe they sing "Poor Paddy he works on the 
railroad," or "The great Pacific railway for California hail ; bring on 
the locomotive, lay down the iron rail," or that favorite ditty: 



38 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Then drill, my Paddies, drill, 
Drill, my heroes, drill, 
Drill all day, no sugar in your tay, 
Workin' on the U. P. railway. 

If the money from the last pay-day is not all spent, the men will 
probably wander into the town, that moving "hell-on-wheels," for a 
night of bad whisky, gaudy dance-hall belles, crooked card games, and 
a morning-after headache. Of the raw night-life of those camp towns 
it was written, "They counted that day lost whose low descending sun, 
saw no man killed or other mischief done." One of the worst of these 
moving towns was that at Julesburg, Nebraska, where the gamblers 
took possession, occupied the land Dodge had set aside for shops, and 
took the law into their own hands. Dodge ordered General Casement 
to take charge and restore order ; three weeks later, when he returned, 
the following conversation took place between Dodge and Casement: 

"Are the gamblers quiet and behaving?" 

"You bet they are, General. They're quiet and behaving out there in 
the graveyard." 

As to the actual methods of work that produced such speedy building 
as was done on the Union Pacific, an anonymous contemporary 
journalist has this to say : 

One can see all along the line of the now completed road the evidences of 
ingenious self-protection and defense which our men learned during the 
war. The same curious huts and underground dwellings which were a 
common sight along our army lines then, may now be seen burrowed into 
the sides of the hills, or built up with ready adaptability in sheltered spots. 
The whole organisation of the force engaged in the construction of the road 
is, in fact, semi-military. The men who go ahead, locating the road, are the 
advance guard. Following these is the second line, cutting through the 
gorges, grading the road, and building bridges. Then comes the main line 
of the army, placing the sleepers, laying the track, spiking down the rails, 
perfecting the alignment, ballasting the rail, and dressing up and com 
pleting the road for immediate use. This army of workers has its base, to 
continue the figure, at Omaha, Chicago, and still farther eastward, from 
whose markets are collected the material for constructing the road. Along 
the line of the completed road are construction trains constantly "pushing 
forward to the front" with supplies. The company's grounds and workshops 
at Omaha are the arsenal, where these purchases, amounting now to 
millions of dollars in value, are collected and held ready to be sent forward. 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 39 

The advance limit of the rail is occupied by a train of long box cars, with 
hammocks swung under them, beds spread on top of them, bunks built 
within them, in which the sturdy, broad-shouldered pioneers of the great 
iron highway sleep at night and take their meals. Close behind this train 
come loads of ties and rails and spikes, &c., which are being thundered off 
upon the roadside, to be ready for the track-layers. The road is graded a 
hundred miles in advance. The ties are laid roughly in place, then adjusted, 
gauged, and levelled. Then the track is laid. 

Track-laying on the Union Pacific is a science, and we pundits of the 
Far East stood upon that embankment, only about a thousand miles this 
side of sunset, and backed westward before that hurrying corps of sturdy 
operatives with mingled feelings of amusement, curiosity, and profound 
respect. On they came. A light car, drawn by a single horse, gallops up to 
the front with its load of rails. Two men seize the end of a rail and start 
forward, the rest of the gang taking hold by twos until it is clear of the 
car. They come forward at a run. At the word of command the rail is 
dropped in its place, right side up, with care, while the same process goes 
on at the other side of the car. Less than thirty seconds to a rail for each 
gang, and so four rails go down to the minute I Quick work, you say, but 
the fellows on the U. P. are tremendously in earnest. The moment the car 
is empty it is tipped over on the side of the track to let the next loaded 
car 1 pass it, and then it is tipped back again; and it is a sight to see it go 
flying back for another load, propelled by a horse at full gallop at the end 
of 60 or 80 feet of rope, ridden by a young Jehu, who drives furiously. 
Close behind the first gang come the gaugers, spikers, and bolters, and a 
lively time they make of it. It is a grand Anvil Chorus that those sturdy 
sledges are playing across the plains. It is in triple time, three strokes to a 
spike. There are ten spikes to a rail, four hundred rails to a mile, eighteen 
hundred miles to San Francisco. That's the sum, what is the quotient? 
Twenty-one million times are those sledges to be swung, twenty-one 
million times are they to come down with their sharp punctuation, before 
the great work of modern America is complete! 

It was fortunate that Dodge had insisted on complete control in 
building the Union Pacific, for within the next year he was faced with 
so many and so varied obstacles that only an indomitable fighter 
clothed with absolute powers could have overcome them. When the 
road had been extended 200 miles west of Omaha, a band of Indians 
swept down on one of the freight crews, captured the train, and held 
it ; and this was the beginning of 20 months of bitter and continuous 
warfare. Personal conflict developed between Dodge and Durant, when 
the vice-president attempted to assert his powers as general manager 



40 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and interfere with Dodge's work and plans. The final location of the 
route had not yet been determined, and consequently Dodge was com 
pelled to spend much time in the field exploring the country. Snow 
blockades stopped work and traffic in the winter, and in spring great 
floods swept through Nebraska tearing out miles of track and telegraph 

poles. 

When Dodge wrote General William T. Sherman that he proposed 
to reach Fort Sanders, 288 miles west from the head of the tracks, in 
another 12 months and that he needed 5,000 soldiers east of the 
mountains and north of the Platte to give the men confidence and 
ensure the success of his plans, Sherman was astonished. "It is almost 
a miracle to grasp your purpose to finish to Fort Sanders in 1867," he 
wrote, "but you have done so much that I mistrust my own judgment 
and accept yours. I regard this road as the solution of Indian affairs 
and of the Mormon question, and I will help you all I can. You may 
rest easy that both Grant and I feel deeply concerned in the safety 
of your great national enterprise." 

But, despite the sending of additional troops, the Indians were more 
than a match for the Union Pacific. From the Laramie Mountains 
they swooped down on the line, pulled up the surveyor's stakes, stole 
the horses, and drove the workmen away ; they attacked another sec 
tion near Laramie, stole the supplies, and burned everything in sight ; 
they routed engineering parties ; they killed a soldier and a tie-hauler 
and burned the stage stations on a 5o-mile front. They tried to wreck 
an engine by stretching a rawhide lariat across the track with thirty 
braves on each side; as retaliation for the resulting carnage, they 
raided a near-by railroad station next evening, captured one man, and 
killed him by building a bonfire on his breast. General Dodge wrote 
Sherman that he was beginning to have serious doubts of the ability of 
General Christopher C. Augur, who had charge of the troops, to cam 
paign against the Indians in the Powder River country and at the same 
time protect the railroad mail-routes and the telegraph. So dangerous 
was the situation that Dodge traveled in a private car which was in 
reality an arsenal, with only enough space for a bed and a table which 
served alternately as a dining-table and a desk. 

The raids had become so frequent that Dodge had difficulty in hiring 
workmen; but Congress refused to allow military campaigns against 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 4! 

the hostile Indians who infested the country to the south of Dodge's 
line near the Republican River, and the military protection from the 
marauders of the north and the west was inadequate. The situation 
indeed looked hopeless. At this time, however, the Government sent 
three commissioners from the East to the end of the track to examine 
the road. They had just finished their task and were standing on a hill 
overlooking the work, talking to Dodge, when suddenly more than a 
hundred Indians swooped down and attacked the workmen at lunch. 
For the first time government representatives heard the war-whoops 
and the spatter of bullets, saw the wild savages, and felt the chill fear 
of death and scalping. Although there was a company of infantry a 
mile away, it could not reach the scene until after the Indians had 
finished their swift attack; the workmen ran for the shelter of the 
box-cars and fired not a single shot; Dodge left the commissioners 
standing n the hill, drew his revolver, berated the fleeing workmen, 
and then, returning, told the commissioners, now thoroughly frightened, 
"We've got to clean the damn Indians out or give up building the 
Union Pacific. The Government can take its choice." Convinced, now, 
that Indian warfare was a desperate matter and not mere cattle-stealing 
and annoying interference, the commission went back to Washington 
and obtained more troops from Congress for the protection of the 
railroad-builders, and the danger from Indian attacks was materially 
lessened. 

But Dodge had other battles to fight. Some of the government com 
missioners recommended that he stop work for six months, awaiting 
stronger military detachments, and he wrote in protest to President 
Oliver Ames in New York, "I'll push this road on to Salt Lake in 
another year or surrender my own scalp to the Indians. If we stop 
now, we may never get started again." Small wonder that Dodge was 
loath to stop now, for he had made a splendid record in pushing the 
road westward. His report of progress says that "the first surveys were 
made in the fall of 1863. The first grading was done in the fall of 1864. 
The first rail was laid in July, 1865. Two hundred and sixty miles were 
built in 1866, 240 in 1867, including the ascent of the first range of 
mountains to an elevation of 8,235 feet above sea-level." 

In his insistence that construction should continue uninterrupted, 
Dodge had the support of President Ames, but Vice-President Durant, 



42 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

irked by his loss of power, started intriguing to regain the control that 
Dodge had taken. Since the line had been pushed through the difficult 
stretch of Laramie Mountain country, Durant felt he could now get 
along without Dodge. So he began his bid for authority by attempting 
to change the location of the line and by declaring that the mountain- 
division headquarters would be at Laramie instead of Cheyenne. When 
he heard this, Dodge left Washington, where he was lobbying for the 
railroad, and started west. At Cheyenne he bluntly told the citizens 
that Durant had lied and that the railroad shops and headquarters 
would remain in their city. In May, 1868, he hurried on to Laramie, 
where a powerful gang of gamblers and whisky-venders were determined 
to make Laramie the division headquarters and were threatening with 
violence the men on the construction work between Laramie and 
Cheyenne. 

Dodge's biographer, J. R. Perkins, tells colorfully of his spectacular 
visit: * 

The "Big Tent" was up and doing a thriving business the evening Dodge 
arrived. It was the town's social and civic center and it was just a little 
bigger and a little tougher than it had been at the other points. From a 
platform a German band played noisily; and while the mule-whackers, 
miners and railroad workers danced with the strumpets, scores of others 
crowded the gambling tables, played monte, faro and rondo coolo; and 
against the long bar, with its background of cut-glass goblets, ice pitchers 
and high mirrors, leaned those who drank hard whisky and sang the senti 
mental songs of their childhood back in the older states. 

Dodge's visit to Laramie City was a dash of cold water. 

"The shops will remain at Cheyenne," he said. "And if the gamblers and 
saloon-keepers here don't let the railroad employees alone, I'll have General 
Gibbons send down a company of soldiers and we'll proclaim martial law. 
Take your choice." 

Then he hunted up Thomas C. Durant, and the meeting was far from 
pleasant. "Durant," Dodge said in his deliberate way, "you are now going 
to learn that the men working for the Union Pacific will take orders from me 
and not from you. If you interfere there will be trouble trouble from the 
government, from the army, and from the men themselves." He turned 
abruptly and left Durant standing in the dusty Main Street of Laramie 
City, and the rails of the Union Pacific began to be laid faster than 
ever before. 

* J. R. Perkins, Trails, Rails and War (copyright, 1929). Quoted by special per 
mission of the publishers, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 43 

Dodge had long since told Oliver Ames that Durant was in the way 
and had received in return this statement from the president : "It shall 
be the duty of the chief engineer of the Union Pacific to take charge 
of all matters pertaining to the construction of the road." But now a 
battle royal loomed. Sidney Dillon wired Dodge that Durant had 
secured large powers from the company, and asked Dodge to hurry 
east to a meeting arranged by Durant with Grant, Sherman, railroad 
officials, and government commissioners to confer on the completion of 
the building of the road. At this meeting, July 26, 1868, Durant accused 
Dodge of selecting impossible routes, squandering money, and ignoring 
the judgment of his associates. He also declared that the road had not 
yet been located into Salt Lake. As Perkins tells the story: * 

"What about it, Dodge?" General Grant inquired, leaning back in a 
cane-bottqmed chair and smoking vigorously. 

"Just tms," Dodge began deliberately; "if Durant, or anybody con 
nected with the Union Pacific, or anybody connected with the government 
changes my lines, I'll quit the road." 

There was a tense pause; Grant shifted his cigar, Sherman's seamy face 
was immobile, but the others were ill at ease. Durant's delicate fingers 
pulled at his Van Dyke beard; he glanced at Colonel Seymour, his hench 
man, but said nothing. Grant finally broke the silence. 

"The government expects this railroad to be finished," he said slowly. 
"The government expects the railroad company to meet its obligations. 
And the government expects General Dodge to remain with the road as its 
chief engineer until it is completed." 

It was a dramatic moment ; it was even a critical moment in the building 
of the first great transcontinental road. Durant looked at the man who 
would soon become President and doubtless did some quick thinking. 
Anyhow, whatever he thought, he turned to Dodge and said: 

"I withdraw my objections. We all want Dodge to stay with the road." 

With the question of absolute control finally settled, Dodge turned 
all his energies to the race with the Central Pacific and, with Dillon, 
hastened to Salt Lake. The Central Pacific had originally been 
chartered by the Government to build east through California to the 
Nevada line, where, it was supposed, it would join tracks with the 
Union Pacific. But the wording was vague, and under the influence 
of the Central Pacific lobbyists Congress amended the act to declare 

*Ibid. 



44 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

that the two railroads should continue construction until their rails 
met. Just where this was to be was not stated, and since every mile 
of track meant thousands of dollars in subsidies, each road was anxious 
to build as long a line as possible. Moreover, each looked covetously 
upon the traffic of the Salt Lake basin country, controlled by the 
Mormons, and each was anxious to earn the favor of the American 
public as the aggressive and dominant Western road. 

When officers of the Central Pacific saw that the Union Pacific was 
going to beat them to the western shore of Salt Lake and so cut them 
off from this rich traffic, Collis P. Huntington of the California road, 
who spent most of his time lobbying in Washington, induced President 
Johnson's Cabinet to believe that the Union Pacific had been poorly 
built and was not up to government specifications. He filed the location 
of the line of the Central Pacific 300 miles in advance of actual con 
struction, partly over a line already graded by the Union ificific east 
of Salt Lake ; and then he obtained an order from the Secretary of the 
Interior restraining the Union Pacific from building west of the eastern 
end of this 300-mile survey. Since the Union Pacific had also filed its 
line west far beyond Salt Lake, as permitted by law, the question of 
which road should have the cash subsidies from the Government was a 
difficult one ; and it appeared that, under the law, both could ultimately 
collect, or try to collect. 

In Washington the Central Pacific lobbied to secure the support of 
President Johnson's administration ; in the field Dodge told his story to 
sympathetic General Grant, who was soon to succeed Johnson as Presi 
dent. When the two roads were about the same distance from 
Promontory Point, on Salt Lake west of Ogden, Dodge proposed to 
Durant that they agree to meet there, but Durant, with his eye on the 
$30,000 a mile subsidy, refused to consider any such negotiations. So 
both roads pushed forward as fast as they could. 

In the meantime Dodge was having his troubles with the Mormons. 
When he announced that his surveys showed that the road should be 
built north of Salt Lake City to Ogden, the officials of the Mormon 
Church were furious. Since Brigham Young had already told his fol 
lowers that the Lord had revealed to him that the Union Pacific would 
build directly to Salt Lake City, he now called the Faithful together 
and preached a scorching sermon against this impious engineer and his 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 45 

railroad which defied the Divine Will by leaving Salt Lake City off 
the main line. So strong was the feeling in the Mormon capital that 
Dodge's life was threatened, but fortunately the Central Pacific en 
gineers decided that their road too must go north of the Lake. 
Informing Brigham Young of the decision of the rival road, Dodge 
promised him that his company would build a branch south from 
Ogden into Salt Lake City; if the Mormons would not support this 
arrangement, the Union Pacific would block the Central Pacific from 
building such a connection. Thereupon the Prophet called together his 
twelve apostles, and it was decided that Dodge had more to offer than 
the road that the Church of Latter-Day Saints was then supporting. 
Consequently, in a great Tabernacle meeting, Brigham Young told his 
followers of the plans of the railroad to build into Salt Lake City from 
Ogden and revealed that "the Lord, in another vision, had commanded 
the Mormons to help the Union Pacific." 

Having solved this difficulty, Dodge was called upon to take the 
hardest blow of all. For now the Central Pacific played its trump card. 
Huntington obtained from President Johnson, the day before his 
Cabinet went out of office, an order on the Treasury to issue $1,400,000 
in bonds to the Central Pacific in payment of the government subsidy 
on its line from Echo Canon to Promontory Point, Utah, a line which 
had been filed by the Central Pacific but was already actually graded 
by the Union Pacific. Meanwhile, the Union Pacific had no money: 
the Government withheld its subsidies; Jim Fisk, the stock-plunger, 
had secured a large block of its shares and tied the company up in 
litigation; Oliver Ames wrote, "We may have to quit." But Dodge 
pushed construction forward through the worst snow-storms in years 
and reached Ogden in March of 1869. With the final blow of the issue 
of government bonds to the Central Pacific it appeared that the Union 
Pacific could get no money for construction west of Ogden. Neverthe 
less, Dodge kept his crews at work and communicated with his friend 
Grant. He was rewarded for his tenacity when the new President of 
the United States annulled the former President's order and prohibited 
the issuance of bonds to either road until the affairs of both companies 
should be investigated. 

Under the Congressional Act of 1862 the Union Pacific had been 
empowered to build to the western boundary of Nevada and the Central 



46 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Pacific to the eastern boundary of California, but there was an am 
biguous clause permitting the Central Pacific to aid the Union 
Pacific in completing its tracks to the western boundary of Nevada. 
An amendment in 1866 permitted the two roads to continue construc 
tion until their rails met and allowed each road to locate its line 300 
miles in advance of construction. Dodge suggested informally that the 
roads meet at Promontory Point, Utah, but the Central Pacific officers, 
who were anxious to build into Ogden and capture the Salt Lake trade, 
refused to agree, and Durant, who wanted to get the government sub 
sidies for every possible mile, insisted that the Union Pacific build as 
far west as it could. Consequently, while pushing the tracks on toward 
Promontory Point, Dodge began locating the line, grading, and laying 
ties west of this point. And the Central Pacific began to grade a line 
from Ogden to Promontory Point paralleling that of the Union Pacific. 
--""As Dodge continued westward and the gradings of the two roads 
began to parallel each other, fights between the crews were frequent. 
But, with the support of President Grant, Dodge had the upper hand, 
and he told Huntington that if they did not agree on a meeting-point, 
the Government would undoubtedly step in and take charge of both 
railroads. This powerful argument settled the matter; they agreed to 
meet, as Dodge had originally suggested, at Promontory Point, Utah, 
west of Ogden ; and the Union Pacific agreed to sell the Central Pacific 
its graded right of way from the west at Echo Canon into Ogden. 
Ultimately the Union Pacific received from the Central Pacific more 
than a million dollars for this construction work, as well as the govern 
ment subsidies. 

Even after agreement had been reached, there was still spirited, if 
not bitter, rivalry between the two roads, however ; and the newspapers 
began to print reports of the race. It was pointed out that a day's 
work often resulted in more miles of track being laid than an ox-train 
could travel in a day over the old overland trail. The papers would 
report that the Union Pacific had laid six miles of track one day ; and 
next day the Central Pacific would make an extra spurt of speed and 
lay seven miles. In order to speed construction the Chinese track-layers 
of the Central Pacific were supplemented by championship crews of 
stalwart Irishmen; as a result, Thomas Durant lost a $10,000 wager 
that the rival road could not lay 10 miles of track in a day. As the 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 47 

roads neared Promontory Point, another crisis loomed when a general 
strike was threatened if the Union Pacific workmen were not paid 
their overdue wages immediately. They had already shot one foreman, 
hanged another, and kicked a contractor out of his own camp because 
they were not paid, and finally Durant, on his way west for the final 
construction ceremonies, was seized by workmen and held for ransom, 
the ransom being payment in full of all wages. Dodge wired Ames of 
the desperate situation, requesting one million dollars in cash. For 
tunately, the president was able to obtain this, Durant was released, 
and the Union Pacific completed its tracks into Promontory Point. 

On May 10, 1869, the rival roads came together, and grimy workmen 
leaning on their shovels joined with state officials and railroad officers, 
Mormon Saints, Indians, frontiersmen, and camp-followers in the cele 
bration that marked the end of five years of toil. Leland Stanford, 
Governor of California and one of the backers of the Central Pacific, 
came out with his party on a special drawn by an engine christened 
"Jupiter," the party including Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, 
Charles Crocker, and others ; the Union Pacific party included, among 
others, Dodge, Durant, Dillon, and the Casement brothers. There was 
a spirited controversy over whether Durant or Stanford should drive 
the Golden Spike, but finally the Union Pacific crowd sulkily yielded 
this honor to the Governor. 

Although the project of the Pacific railway had seemed to many a 
wildcat scheme, the recent race between the roads had filled the news 
papers with stories of the magnitude of the project, its future pos 
sibilities, and its importance to the nation. Hence the whole country 
was agog over the driving of the last spike. When a clergyman from 
Pittsfield, Massachusetts, had concluded his prayer, the telegraph 
flashed, "We have got done praying" ; and the reply came back, "We 
are all ready in the East." Now came the great moment. Every town 
in the nation got the message, "Hats off," and Governor Stanford with 
a silver sledge drove the golden spike home, into a tie of polished 
laurel, touching an electric wire attached to the spike which sent its 
impulse over the telegraph wires of the nation and told the world that 
the Pacific railroad was completed. In New York, Trinity Church was 
thrown open at midday. The Te Deum was sung, and an address was 
delivered by the Reverend Dr. Vinton before a large crowd "united 



48 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to tender thanks to God for the completion of the greatest work ever 
undertaken by man." In Philadelphia bells were rung and cannon fired. 
At Buffalo thousands gathered to hear the telegraph signals, sing "The 
Star-Spangled Banner," and listen to speeches by distinguished citizens. 
A hundred guns were fired in Omaha, and Chicago showed its feeling 
in a parade four miles long and a mass-meeting at night. Business was 
entirely suspended in San Francisco; buildings and ships were deco 
rated with bunting, bells rang, whistles tooted, and the town was in a 
furore for days. 

When their engines stood head-on at the end of their respective tracks 
that day, the Central Pacific had constructed 690 miles of railroad east 
from Sacramento, the Union Pacific 1,086 west from the Missouri. 
Each engineer broke a bottle of champagne over his rival's engine, 
and the day ended in speeches and feasting. And Bret Harte was in 
spired to write his poem, "What the Engines Said," * which read, in 
part: 

What was it the Engines said, 
Pilots touching, head to head, 
Facing on a single track, 
Half a world behind each back ? 

With a prefatory screech, 
In a florid Western speech, 
Said the engine from the WEST: 
"I am from Sierra's crest; 
And if altitude's a test, 
Why, I reckon, it's confessed 
That I've done my level best." 

Said the engine from the EAST, 
"They who work best talk the least. 
S'pose you whistle down your brakes; 
What you've done is no great shakes, 
Pretty fair, but let our meeting 
Be a different kind of greeting. 
Let these folks with champagne stuffing, 
Not the engines, do the puffing!' 


* Quoted by permission of the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Company. 




A UNION PACIFIC CONSTRUCTION TRAIN AND CREW 
From a photograph of 1868. Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad. 




THE OLD AND THE NEW IN OVERLAND TRANSPORTATION 

The special train, drawn by "Jupiter," bearing Leland Stanford to the last-spike 
ceremonies meets a covered-wagon train of emigrants bound for California a few 
miles west of Promontory Point. Courtesy of the Southern Pacific Company. 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 49 

That is what the engines said 
Unreported and unread 
Spoken slightly through the nose 
With a whistle at the close. 

How well Dodge's work was done, despite the speed at which it was 
finished, we can judge from the final report of the government corn- 
mission of engineers : 

Taken as a whole, the Union Pacific Railroad has been well constructed. 
The general route for the line is exceedingly well chosen, crossing the 
Rocky Mountain Ranges at some of the most favorable passes on the 
continent, and possessing capabilities for easy grades and favorable align 
ments unsurpassed by any other railway line on similarly elevated grounds. 
The energy and perseverance with which the work has been urged forward, 
and the rapidity with which it has been executed are without parallel in 
history. In the grandeur and magnitude of the undertaking, it has never 
been equalled, and no other line compares with this in the arid and barren 
character of the country it traverses, giving rise to unusual inconveniences 
and difficulties, and imposing the necessity of obtaining almost every 
requisite of material, of labor, and supplies for its construction, from the 
initial point of its commencement. 

Another project of considerable magnitude was the building of the 
Kansas Pacific Railway from Kansas City to Denver, which later was 
absorbed as a branch of the Union Pacific. The leadership of this 
enterprise also depended, to a large extent, upon one man, William J. 
Palmer, and it involved him in such varied activities as the super 
intendence of construction, assisting in the raising of money to finance 
the road, securing the cooperation of other business interests, and 
lobbying in Congress for government support. In the furtherance of this 
project there came prominently to the fore that rare combination of 
qualities which marked General Palmer as it marked General Dodge 
practical driving force at pushing construction, executive ability, and 
leadership. As a contemporary journalist said : 

At the time of entering upon the work of construction of the Kansas 
Pacific railroad, no material was in sight and yet General Palmer graded 
the road bed, procured ties and rails, laid the tracks and constructed the 
bridges for one hundred and fifty miles of road in ninety-two days. This 
masterly achievement in railroad building was accomplished in the face of 
serious obstacles other than those placed by impersonal forces, as the 



50 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

workmen were greatly harassed by hostile Indians, and eight of their 
number including the principal contractor were scalped. In order to accom 
plish this work in the time desired he was compelled to inspire his men 
with his own earnestness and determination, pushing them to the very limit 
of their strength, but with such courtesy and tact that they remained 
willing workers to the last and were his friends as well as his workers. This 
was but a forecast of what he was to accomplish on almost a national scale. 

Various complicated financial and political difficulties had beset the 
Kansas Pacific, with the result that in the late Sixties it was a "stalled" 
road, jutting out into the Kansas prairies with no prospect of com 
pletely successful operation until it could extend itself to transcon 
tinental proportions or tap the Central Pacific so as to get into 
California. One or the other of these things it proposed to do, as its 
comprehensive surveys under the direction of General Palmer indicated. 
Originally chartered by Congress to join the Union Pacific at the looth 
meridian in central Nebraska, it had succeeded in changing its route 
to parallel the Union Pacific across Kansas and Colorado, and it had 
negotiated with Denver for aid in reaching that city. But the $2,000,000 
it needed was too much for the little city on the Platte, and the citizens 
decided to get a transcontinental outlet by building their own road, 
the Denver Pacific, straight north to meet the Union Pacific at 
Cheyenne. This decision left the Kansas Pacific stranded on the prairies 
two hundred miles from Denver, looking forlornly westward. 

In July, 1868, General Palmer, lobbying in Washington to secure 
additional government aid, wrote his friend Isaac Clothier : 

The only hope I have left is of getting additional aid for about 76 miles 
to a proper point of divergence for New Mexican and Denver trade. This 
point is called Cheyenne Wells and there is abundant water there.* Con 
gress will not give us through aid at this session because of political 
timidity. Our Radical Senators and Representatives would be willing to 
jeopardize the most important practical interests of the Country rather 
than run the slightest shadow of risk to their political schemes. Being 
selfish, they are consequently narrow and do not know that these measures 
are more popular than anything else with the people. ... It will be neces 
sary for our Road to reach the base of the Rocky Mtn's before it will be 
very profitable or have a flourishing traffic. The business this year has not 
I believe, been proportionately so large as last. If we had reached the 
mtns. we should have had an immense amount of coal and timber to 
carry besides supplies for the gold and silver mines 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 51 

The financial deadlock was broken when Congress passed a bill per 
mitting the Kansas Pacific to transfer its rights and lands to the Denver 
Pacific, granting each road alternate sections of land on both sides of 
its track and authorizing them to borrow $32,000 for each mile of the 
route to be covered. With this support both roads were able to negotiate 
large loans, and General Palmer came to Denver in 1869 to perfect the 
arrangements whereby the two companies would work harmoniously 
together. In these negotiations he proved to be most diplomatic, smooth 
ing out all difficulties between the two roads and enabling construction 
to go forward rapidly, both north and east. Grading and track-laying 
on the Kansas Pacific was started east from Denver at once, and within 
three months there was only 10 miles of trackless section remaining. 
Palmer and the contractors then decided to make a spectacular play by 
building the remainder of the track in 10 hours ; and though there were 
many scoffers to say it could not be done, the 10 miles of track was 
actually built in that time, equaling the speed that the Central 
Pacific had made in its most spectacular day's work. 

It was while the Kansas Pacific was being built that young William 
F. Cody acquired his proud title of "Buffalo Bill." Cody and some 
other plainsmen were hired by the railroad company to provide buffalo 
meat for the construction crews. He was paid five hundred dollars a 
month to kill an average of twelve buffalo a day, to oversee the 
dressing and cutting of the meat, and get it to the construction camps 
where the 1,200 men of the Kansas Pacific were working. The pay was 
high because the buffalo were already disappearing ; they had deserted 
the route of the railway and had to be hunted farther out on the plains. 
Once, when a herd of buffalo was sighted on the prairie, Cody mounted 
his trained buffalo horse, Brigham, and galloped away with his breech- 
loading needle-gun to provide the day's meat supply. When he reached 
the vicinity of the herd, he found five Army officers from Fort Harker 
waiting for the herd to pass. They told him that they would shoot the 
animals but wanted only the tongues and a chuck of the tenderloin 
and that he could have the rest. He thanked them, and when the 
herd arrived, he ran from the party and advanced on the buffalo from 
the rear. There were eleven in the herd, and with twelve shots he 
picked them all off before the Army officers had a chance to put their 
guns into action. So astonished were the officers at the prowess of this 



52 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

young plainsmen that they dubbed him "Buffalo Bill," a title which he 
bore ever afterward. 

The Kansas Pacific did its part toward the destruction of the buffalo 
by running excursion trains filled with hunters from the Middle West, 
and it was not many years until the thundering herds had entirely dis 
appeared. When the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia toured the West, 
Buffalo Bill was hired to be his guide in a buffalo hunt, receiving 
$1,000 a month for his services. Needless to say, the Grand Duke shot 
his buffalo. In 18 months Cody killed 4,280 buffalo for the Kansas 
Pacific construction crews. 

Although General Palmer completed the road straight west into the 
city of Denver, this route was selected against his advice. He had 
recommended that the road reach the Rockies 100 miles south, at 
Pueblo, and proceed north from there to Denver, thus occupying the 
valley of the Arkansas and the base of the Rockies from Pueblo to 
Denver, so that the mining country could be tapped and branch lines 
built wherever new mining properties were discovered. Since the 
directors of the Kansas Pacific refused to adopt this plan, General 
Palmer lost no time in carrying out the project himself. In September, 
1870, when the Kansas Pacific was completed and operating into 
Denver, he resigned ; and showing his usual speed and energy, within a 
month he had organized his own road, the Denver and Rio Grande, to 
follow the base of the Rockies south and ultimately, he planned, to 
enter Southern California and Mexico. 

The building of the Denver and Rio Grande by General Palmer is a 
fascinating story of faith and achievement; for it was built through 
an almost unpeopled territory with no great center of population at 
either end, a territory which had considerable wild beauty of rocks and 
mountains but was also characterized by arid plains which would not 
yield easily to the arts of the farmer. There were as yet few gold- 
camps, no trading-centers, and fewer than 500 people between Denver 
and Pueblo, while the whole state of Colorado south of Denver con 
tained less than 10,000 inhabitants, and the only transportation from 
Denver to Colorado City was a triweekly stage which averaged five 
passengers a trip. But Palmer had faith in the future of this country 
in the minerals that could be dug from its mountains, the cattle to be 
raised on its grazing-lands, and the cities that could be built through 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 53 

the exploitation of its resources. All this was far in the future, and few 
could have sensed these possibilities. Indeed, even such experienced 
men as the directors of the Kansas Pacific had failed to do so. 

In completing his system of mountain railways the construction 
problems Palmer faced were tremendous, and time and again his 
engineers declared, "It's no use trying. You can never carry freight and 
passengers over those mountains to any advantage." On one such 
occasion he gathered his surveyors together in their camp and stopped 
all dissent with the statement, "The decision is made, gentlemen. It's 
going to be done ! " But it was no wonder the engineers demurred, for 
before it was completed, the railroad company encountered nearly 
every kind of difficulty that engineering science had had to meet. It 
went through mountain-ranges two miles high and into canons half a 
mile deep ; it crossed and recrossed the Continental Divide with a grade 
of 211 feet to the mile in an intricate maze of meandering lines and 
abrupt curves ; it zigzagged over dizzy pinnacled heights where "men 
plied picks and shovels amid the clouds that floated around the spinal 
column of the continent." One observer described a typical scene of 
construction activities in Animas Canon : 

The smooth vertical wall was 1,000 feet deep. From that height were seen 
hanging spider-web-like ropes, down which men seeming not much larger 
than ants were slowly descending while others perched upon narrow shelves 
in the face of the cliff, or in trifling niches from which their only egress 
was by dangling ropes, sighted through their theodolites from one ledge to 
the other, and directed where to place the dabs of paint indicating the 
intended roadbed. Similarly suspended, the workmen followed the en 
gineers, drilling holes for blasting, and tumbling down loose fragments, 
until they had won a foothold for working in a less extraordinary manner. 
Ten months of labor were spent on this canon-cutting months of work on 
the brink of yawning abysses and in the midst of falling rocks and yet 
not one serious accident occurred. 

And the chief engineer said, "Often it seemed as if another hair's 
breadth or a straw's weight would have sent me over the edge." 

It was-this perilous construction work that later earned for the Rio 
Grande the title of the world's most scenic railway route this and 
the 25 years of artistic press-agentry of Major S. K. Hooper, who 
"started out in life as a ship blacksmith and in that school learned to 
fit and join, and also the virtues of constant pounding. On these lines, 



54 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

he conducted a publicity campaign for the Rio Grande that was at 
once the admiration and despair of his fellow craftsmen. 'Always in the 
lime light 7 was his motto for the road and he made the Royal Gorge 
and the rest of its scenery known wherever print was read." 

For several excellent reasons General Palmer adopted the narrow 
gage for the initial stages of his railroad-building. Since he received 
no subsidies from the Government (and his was the first Western road 
so built), but only a right of way 200 feet wide and 20 acres for 
station purposes in each 10 miles, all the money he used had to be 
raised privately. Consequently, the saving of 37 per cent of the con 
struction cost achieved by using the narrow gage was well worth 
considering. Moreover, it was especially adapted to the rough country 
and precipitous grades, since it could loop the loop when necessary and 
turn around on the brim of a sombrero. Before deciding the exact gage, 
in 1870, he visited with Dr. William A. Bell the Fastiniog Railway in 
Wales, which used a two-foot gage, and he consulted the London 
engineers Fowler and Strachey, who had built a successful railroad in 
India one meter wide. As a result of these investigations Palmer finally 
adopted a three-foot gage, and it was said that his miniature coaches 
and equipment were a delight to look at and to ride in, being beauti 
fully made and fitted with extraordinary care. Later, when funds were 
available, his lines were made standard-gage by the addition of a 
third rail. 

It was while building the Denver and Rio Grande in the late 
Seventies that General Palmer engaged in one of the most spectacular 
building and operating contests in the entire history of American rail 
roads. By this time his "baby railroad" was growing with the speed 
and hardiness of a wild blackberry-vine, pushing out from its main 
trunk various winding offshoots which penetrated the mountains at 
the west to the places where rich mines were to be found. It was still 
in the precarious early-development stage and could not compare with 
the Union Pacific in importance or length or even width, but "the 
little road" already represented a substantial achievement in planning, 
engineering, building, and financing. Although burdened by its heavy 
program of construction and hampered by the fact that it was built 
entirely with private capital, the Denver and Rio Grande had aspira 
tions to become a transcontinental road. Its original plans, filed with 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 55 

the United States Government when it secured a Federal charter, called 
for construction westward through the only easily available pass in the 
Rockies in Colorado, the Grand Canon, or Royal Gorge, of the Arkansas 
River, a little west of Pueblo. And Palmer had always intended to 
extend another line straight south into Mexico, so as to tap its riches 
for the benefit of his Rocky Mountain empire. 

Palmer considered his position secure in Colorado, particularly in 
southern Colorado, and was leisurely planning to build south, when 
he suddenly found that he had an adversary worthy of his mettle in 
Vice- President and General Manager William B. Strong of the Atchi- 
son, Topeka and Santa Fe. For this road, which had built westward 
across the Colorado line from Topeka, Kansas, now threatened to 
extend branches north and south to drain off the traffic of the Denver 
and Rio Grande. Before Palmer realized what was happening, Strong 
had moved into the only available pass to the south, at Raton, New 
Mexico, a route already surveyed and virtually occupied by Palmer's 
road for its proposed extension to Mexico. Strong's chief engineer, A. A. 
Robinson, having seen General Palmer and officials of the Denver and 
Rio Grande on a train going to this pass, surmised that construction 
work was about to start there; he immediately assembled a crew of 
several hundred men, and at dawn next morning, when the Denver and 
Rio Grande forces arrived, the Santa Fe was in armed possession, thus 
effectively shutting off Palmer's entry into southern territory. This 
coup de main occurred on the 26th of February, 1868, and Palmer 
resolved that any further advantage to be obtained by the Santa Fe 
would not be without a struggle. 

In April the warfare between the two roads was fiercely resumed 
when both sought to occupy the pass to the west, the Grand Canon of 
the Arkansas, so as to penetrate westward through the mountains. This 
narrow gorge was so deep a defile that neither man nor beast had ever 
passed through it. Its perpendicular walls were 2,000 feet high and 
only 30 feet apart. When railroad construction was finally begun, the 
workmen had to start at the top and split the granite walls downward 
for hundreds of feet. Lowered by ropes suspended from the edges, they 
hung midway of the opening above the bed of the river until a foothold 
was secured by drilling and splitting. Jagged and irregular masses of 
rock overhung the roadbed 100 feet, and below the cooped-up Arkansas 



56 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

rushed by, a narrow thread of boiling water, imprisoned in a crack so 
deep that the sun seldom reached it. 

The Rio Grande people, having possession of the telegraph lines, 
discovered that the Santa Fe was about to make a sudden dash into 
this canon, and a spirited scramble for priority ensued. Strong of the 
Santa Fe was at El Moro when he heard that Palmer's engineers were 
moving to cut him out and that a gang of a hundred men had been 
despatched to begin work in the Royal Gorge. He instantly made 
application to the Rio Grande for a special train to convey him to the 
spot but was met by refusal. He then telegraphed to one of his sur 
veying engineers at La Junta, ordering him to take an engine and run 
with all speed to Pueblo and thence to beat the Rio Grande force to 
Canon City. Following this order, the surveyor arrived at Pueblo at 
three o'clock on the morning of the igth of April ; he asked the Rio 
Grande management for a narrow-gage locomotive to carry him to 
Canon, but this likewise was refused. Unable to procure steam-power, 
this bold engineer mounted the swiftest horse he could find and struck 
out under whip and spur for the mountains. It was a ride of 45 miles, 
and the desperate emergency demanded that horse and rider should 
be strained to the uttermost. The Santa Fe engineer, Morley, felt that 
he must at all hazards beat the Rio Grande men into Canon City, and 
as he had a few hours start, to do so was simply a matter of endur 
ance. When he was within a few miles of the goal, however, his horse 
fell dead ; but without stopping he picked himself up and ran at top 
speed the remainder of the way. Arriving in the town, where the 
sympathy of the people was given most heartily to the Atchison cause 
because Palmer's railroad had recently built to the rival town of El 
Moro, Morley quickly gathered a force of sympathetic helpers. These 
he rushed to the mouth of the canon, two miles distant, and by the 
time the Rio Grande men arrived, half an hour later, the Santa Fe 
engineer had full possession. 

But the Rio Grande forces, not to be foiled and never for a minute 
considering giving up the Royal Gorge to the stronger road, took pos 
session a few miles above where the Santa Fe had begun working, 
erected armed forts, and began construction on their own account. 
Both roads now began to pour men and grading-teams into the Canon 
and to fortify various points ; and the men indulged in so many fights 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 57 

that arrests were made daily. Palmer meanwhile carried the battle to 
the state courts, and within a week he had won his first legal victory 
in the struggle for possession of the Canon by securing an injunction 
to stop the Santa Fe's work* Ten days later he had the injunction trans 
ferred to the Federal court, where, after several preliminary skirmishes, 
the judge finally permitted both roads to go forward in the Canon, 
"neither to obstruct the other," though how this was to be done in a 
narrow gorge hardly big enough for one, the learned court did not say. 
Palmer then appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. 

But financial difficulties now pressed so heavily against the little 
Rio Grande road, and the Santa Fe, which had earned nearly $4,000,000 
the previous year, was so much more powerful, that Palmer finally 
was forced in December, 1878, under pressure from the bondholders, 
to lease his road to the Santa Fe for 30 years, with the proviso that 
the Santa Fe should make no discriminations against Denver in its 
freight-rates. This was a bitter pill ; but even with the completed tracks 
of the Rio Grande in the possession of the Santa Fe, Palmer was not 
licked. The great silver-mine center of Leadville was booming, but it 
had no rail outlet; and the General was determined to build a road 
into it and capture its rich traffic. For he had had frequent advices 
from his general freight-agent, Colonel David Child Dodge, concerning 
the huge shipments in prospect. Twelve thousand teams were freight 
ing into the town, and they were already hauling 50,000 to 100,000 
pounds of silver bullion a day, charging $i 8 a ton to Colorado Springs. 
And Dodge made such reports as these: "The Gallagher mine promises 
twenty-five tons of ore a day after May ist"; "Harrison reduction 
works could ship 100 tons a day if they had the transportation. Want 
to contract for shipment of 100,000 pounds of ore and bullion." With 
such good prospects Palmer quietly and energetically set about trying 
to interest outside capital, and so successful was he that he secured 
funds for the construction of the railroad into Leadville despite the 
somewhat precarious financial position of the Denver and Rio Grande. 
Meanwhile, litigation over the right of way to the Grand Canon of the 
Arkansas continued, for this had not been affected by the lease. 

A new factor now entered the complex situation, when it began to be 
apparent that the Santa Fe was discriminating against Denver in its 
operation of the Rio Grande railway system. Freight-rates from Denver 



58 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to the south had been immediately raised, and it was evident that 
Strong intended to favor the shippers of Kansas City and thus to cut 
off Denver's jobbing trade. Since this was a violation of the lease, 
General Palmer began efforts in the courts to get his property back. 
Moreover, the Santa Fe was accused of permitting the road to de 
teriorate, removing the rolling-stock, assisting a rival line to build into 
Leadville from Denver, and, in the opinion of Palmer, attempting to 
ruin the property. For these reasons he had the general support of the 
business interests of Colorado in the fight he now waged. 

In March of 1879 the General began to send armed men back into 
the unoccupied stone forts he had built above the canon of the 
Arkansas, where the Santa Fe was continuing its construction, while 
the Santa Fe armed its own men for defense. Under the leadership of 
a cool and daring engineer, De Remer, the Rio Grande work went 
forward. In April, with his men, he climbed down the cliffs and swam 
the Arkansas to a point near where the Santa Fe had built a bracket 
bridge, and there they began work for the Rio Grande. At Canon 
City, at the mouth of the Gorge, there were twenty deputy sheriffs 
with orders to bring him in dead or alive, but not one dared ad 
venture into the deep canon where he had established himself and 
his party. One day a member of the party who was sent into Canon 
City to get the mail and to arrange for food supplies was arrested. 
De Remer immediately went into town to arrange for bail, and Sheriff 
Ben Shaffer, who knew he was coming, determined to arrest him. But 
as the Sheriff came into the justice's court, De Remer dashed out, cut 
the reins of the Sheriff's horse with one slash of his knife, mounted him, 
and headed for the mouth of Royal Gorge, pursued by a yelling squad 
of officers and citizens. At the mouth of the Canon he dismounted, 
turned the Sheriff's horse loose, and was soon safe among the crags 
and peaks, where none cared to follow him. 

Another day, it is said, "De" was working with his men on Stonewall 
Point, when Holbrook, the Santa Fe engineer, brought in his gangs 
and began a flanking movement which, unless headed off, would gain 
his party a position farther up the canon, above the Denver and Rio 
Grande. The only way De Remer could reach this point and head him 
off was by swimming. So he offered $20 apiece to every man who would 
follow him, darted down the crags, and plunged into the boiling river. 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 59 

Not one man followed, but De Remer headed off the Santa Fe party 
and saved the location for the Rio Grande. He built seventeen forts 
and established a dead-line at the twentieth mile-post beyond which the 
Santa Fe men could not go. They built to that point, and the Denver 
and Rio Grande built beyond. 

Each road thought the Supreme Court decision would be in its favor ; 
but on April 21 the Santa Fe builders, who had completed 20 miles of 
track, were stopped by De Remer. With fifty armed men he forcibly 
held up the Santa Fe work, and when asked by whose authority he 
did so, he replied, "By the authority of the United States Supreme 
Court and these fifty men behind me." He had received word that 
the Court had at last decided in favor of the Rio Grande, giving it 
the sole right to build a road through the Canon, and he compelled the 
Santa Fe to withdraw. This victory was quickly followed by a second, 
when, in June, General Palmer won his next legal advantage by obtain 
ing a court order abrogating the Santa Fe lease and turning the road 
back to the Denver and Rio Grande. 

Armed with writs to sheriffs in every county on his line, Palmer now 
began a systematic campaign of seizure of the property, as coolly and 
calculatingly as if he were still "the best cavalry officer in the Army, 
bar none." A group of armed men was mobilized in East Denver, 
marched to the general offices of the railroad in West Denver, broke 
open the doors with a tie for a battering-ram, and occupied the place 
with Denver and Rio Grande employees. A passenger train then made 
up by the new management triumphantly proceeded southward, sys 
tematically capturing stations all along the line and taking the captive 
station-agents aboard. At Colorado Springs the sheriff took possession 
of the railroad property and turned it over to General Palmer, while 
state cavalry preserved order. At Cucharas two Santa Fe men were 
reported killed and two wounded. At Pueblo the Santa Fe had im 
ported Bat Masterson, famous sheriff of Dodge City, the toughest 
town in Kansas, to defend its property. This crack-shot sheriff had 
recruited a band of fighting-men and posted them in the railroad round 
house ready to pick off the Palmer men as fast as they appeared. But 
the practical and suave treasurer of the Rio Grande, Robert F. 
Weitbrec, was aboard the train; reasoning that hired assassins could 
become peacemakers if offered a higher wage, he waved a flag of truce 



60 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and succeeded in negotiating a cessation of hostilities with the truculent 
Bat. The last stronghold, the despatched office in Pueblo, fell when 
ex-Governor Alexander Cameron Hunt, a director of the Rio Grande 
and a "whirlwind of energy and indiscretion/ 7 proceeded up the line 
from El Moro with 200 armed men and stormed the office with much 
shooting but no loss of life. The doughty Governor then dashed on to 
Canon City, where news of his imminent arrival had caused the Santa 
Fe employees hastily to escape on a locomotive, and took the place 
without a struggle. General Palmer must have felt like an old war- 
horse sniffing the smoke of battle as he surveyed his complete triumph 
and ordered timber forts to be erected around the depot at Pueblo and 
a garrison of armed men posted. It was reported that a virtual reign 
of terror existed in Pueblo, El Moro, and Trinidad, armed men patrol 
ling the streets and outlets to the city, and that no one dared utter a 
word in favor of the Santa Fe for fear of death. 

Upon appeal of the Santa Fe next day, the Rio Grande injunctions 
were transferred to the Federal court, and two weeks later the Rio 
Grande was ordered to return the property to the Santa Fe. And since 
a receiver was appointed for the Rio Grande who was favorable to its 
interests and those of Denver business men, this was peaceably done. 
Palmer had now won out in obtaining the right to build through the 
strategic Royal Gorge and also to have his road operated in a manner 
favorable to himself even though it was under lease to his rival. In 
January of the next year, 1880, the final decision was handed down, 
giving the Rio Grande the rights through the Royal Gorge and ordering 
the Santa Fe to turn over its tracks there to the Rio Grande upon 
suitable payments. Next month a treaty was signed at Boston whereby 
the Rio Grande agreed not to build to St. Louis or El Paso, the Santa 
Fe agreed not to build to Denver or Leadville, and the Santa Fe 
received $1,400,000 for the track it had laid. 

Thus ended the most exciting episode in Western railroad-building. 
It was virtually a fight between the two individuals, Palmer and Strong, 
a campaign "which was much like the strife between feudal lords sup 
ported by their respective phalanxes." Palmer's victory was at least 
partly due to the loyalty of these phalanxes his employees ; for he 
had Always conducted the affairs of the Denver and Rio Grande in 
such a way that it was considered a good railroad to work for, and 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 6l 

his men liked him. When there was an opportunity to show what they 
thought of him and his road, they responded with a will, and there 
never was any doubt as to which management the employees of the 
road favored. Perhaps one underlying reason for Palmer's success as a 
railroad man was that deep down in his complex, many-sided per 
sonality there was a love of the physical fact of railroading which 
brought him close to his men an appreciation quite distinct from 
building, or planning, or managing, a sheer delight in the engine as a 
living creature, a boyish love of riding with the engineer in his cab. 
Witness this letter to his Quaker friend, Clothier, when he was working 
for the Pennsylvania : 

I thought that thee would enjoy the scenery in crossing the Alleghenies 
and in cutting through the Laurel and Chestnut Ridges with the gradually 
increasing Conemaugh, and finally in leaping across the rolling country 
that intervenes between Blairsville and Pittsburgh to be set down at the 
portal of the West, on the site of old Fort du Quesne. But did thee relish 
any of it as much as our night ride up the mountain on the "Blue Ridge" 
locomotive the evening thee spent at Altoona? I find car-travelling quite 
tame now and one can certainly get tired in half the time boxed up in a 
long passenger car, that he would on the engine, watching the flame in the 
furnace, or the black smoke wreathing out of the chimney, and talking 
with the engineer and fireman of the wonderful machine which they control 
with such facility. In addition there is the wide open view over hill and 
valley and "Kittanning," and "Allegrippus" and "Whippoorwill" (sealed 
volumes to the inside passengers) become as familiar to you in every out 
line, as the walls and ceiling of your own room at home. 

And again : 

You desire me to tell you what is new about Altoona. Suppose I do. 
Engine "156" has been fitted up with a fire brick deflector, and on being 
tried up the mountain yesterday, performed with great satisfaction. Her 
bonnet and spark-arrestor having been taken off her, she ran with a 
straight stack, and made steam much more freely with a 3% nozzle than 
she did before with one of 3% of an inch. This, of course, was extremely 
satisfactory so also was the fact of her producing very little smoke and 
an inconsiderable amount of dirt, although using the gaseous Pittsburgh 
coal. Mike, the engineer, was of the opinion that she would bear a 4 inch 
nozzle But on the trial being renewed in the afternoon, with Broad Gap 
Coal, it was found impossible to sustain the pressure. From some unac 
countable cause, either bad firing, or the character of the fuel, the sleam 
sank down and down, until it reached 75 Ibs. and it was feared that we 



62 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

would come to a halt. This was all the more vexatious, as we had Mr. 
Scott the Superintendent along, with two young ladies, who, as they rode 
on the locomotive, could see everything that was going on. Moreover, in 
consequence of this great reduction in the draught of the engine, much 
more smoke was produced, and the ladies had their pretty faces tolerably 
well blacked while the Superintendent was kept pretty busy with his 
fingers pulling the upper lid of his eye over the lower, to remove sparks. 
When they got off at the Tunnel (to descend in a hand car), the party 
looked very much as if a dexterous Bootblack had been manceuvering with 
his brush over their countenances. 

I could tell you that 207 is having Gill's improvement applied to her; 
and that the variable exhaust on 114 is doing well, and has already saved, 
the engineer estimates, a half cord of wood in the round trip ; and that the 
new turn-table in the Round House is finished, and works to a charm 
and that the Vandevender Bridge has only her piers half-way up although 
the Boiler makers finished the trusses some time ago but I feel doubtful 
whether these things will interest you. Nevertheless, they form the staple of 
the conversation here, and as a faithful correspondent, I must depict 
things as they are not as we would have them. If you want to learn here 
what any one thinks of the Patent Brake, you can quickly get it. But if 
you want to know what is thought of the last article of the "Autocrat," 
you will have considerable difficulty. 

Once Palmer had won his fight with the Santa Fe, he put aside the 
vagaries of legal wrangling and the heady delights of armed conflict 
and whole-heartedly applied himself to the extension of his railway 
system. Without any delay, he pushed the road on to the rich prize of 
Leadville, which he had eyed so longingly and long, there to be met 
with the enthusiastic and prodigal welcome of the mining Croesus 
Horace A. W. Tabor. The first Denver and Rio Grande train to reach 
Leadville bore none other than the former President, General Ulysses 
S. Grant, just returning from a tour around the world; and Tabor, 
though invited to be a passenger on this train, hastened from Denver 
to Leadville by stage-coach so as to meet the General with all the 
pomp and glory possible as ruler of his own silver kingdom. When the 
first train arrived, 30,000 people filled the streets of Leadville, and the 
little frame station almost gave way with the crowd and General 
Grant. General Palmer and Grant rode down the main street in an 
open barouche flanked by miners in buckskin waving bottles and flags. 
At the Tabor Opera House a group of miners sprinkled gold-dust on 
the backs of the four black horses as a symbol of Leadville's prodi- 



THE BUILDERS OF THE RAILROADS 63 

gality. Grant, after making a short speech from the balcony of a 
hotel, retired to listen to the incredible story of Leadville's inex 
haustible riches as told by the irrepressible "Haw" Tabor, who punc 
tuated his recital with much back-slapping of the ex-President as 
the high-balls and champagne made them all one big family. Thus 
the Denver and Rio Grande made its triumphal entry into the world's 
greatest bonanza silver-camp, from which over $2,000,000,000 worth of 
precious metals was to be taken, with the auspicious omen of an ex- 
President of the United States as an honored guest. 

Now that he had won his fight for the Rio Grande, even if he had 
lost his opportunity to push south to Mexico, Palmer carried on with 
extraordinary vigor his projects for developing his railroad empire in 
Colorado. Five new branches were completed in three years, after which 
he finished a subsidiary road, the Rio Grande Western, to Salt Lake 
City, establishing a connecting link with the Union Pacific. So well had 
he carried out his original plans that within 13 years from receiving 
his charter he had completed every unit in the comprehensive project 
as first outlined with the exception of the road to Mexico and Southern 
California. 

The completion of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad system 
marked an epoch in the building of the new West, and it was a per 
sonal tribute to the genius of the one man who conceived it and 
constructed it and fought its battles and developed its territory. His 
monument will always be this great railroad threading the precarious 
passes of the Rocky Mountains, the central section of the steel arch 
which crosses the Continental Divide to connect two oceans. 



CHAPTER IV 

EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 

E" 3KING back on the building of the first Western railroads, 
it is easy and natural to say that the promoters of each of 
them had a "sure thing," a bonanza which, without effort on 
their part, poured a steady golden stream into their strong-boxes. When 
we consider the rich, fertile, populous country through which these 
roads pass ; the profitable traffic that has been theirs ; the vast sums 
given by the Government as subsidies for building them ; the manipula 
tions by which further vast sums were caused to accrue to their 
backers ; the various deals, often far from ethical, by means of which 
huge profits were made and legislative action influenced, we wonder 
if the whole early era of Western railroad-building was not simply 
a wild orgy of get-rich-quick speculation for the profit of a few favored 
insiders. 

There is no question that enormous fortunes were made by the 
backers of these railroads. Congressional investigation cast some light 
on the millions amassed by Oliver and Oakes Ames and others from 
the building of the Union Pacific. General Palmer began life as a man 
of small means and, after his operations in the limited field of Colo 
rado railroads, ended it living regally in a Tudor castle adjoining the 
Garden of the Gods, to which he imperially summoned all the members 
of his old Army regiment from Pennsylvania, providing special trains 
and weeks of princely entertainment. Thomas C. Durant's horses 
were the pride of Central Park and the admiration of New York. 
We need only contrast the humble beginnings of Collis P. Hunt- 
ington and Mark Hopkins, partners in a Sacramento hardware 
store, of Leland Stanford, dealer in groceries and miner's supplies, 
and of Charles Crocker, peddler, iron-maker, gold-miner, and trader, 
with their financial preeminence after they built the Central Pacific 
to realize that their touch on the steel rails was the touch of Midas. 

64 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 65 

But what we have difficulty in realizing to-day is that, at the time 
these railroads were first proposed, they were regarded as wildcat 
schemes; that even with heavy government subsidies few capitalists 
wished to have anything to do with them ; that without the possibility 
of most extraordinary gains no one would have touched the railroad 
enterprises. 

When the engineer Theodore D. Judah conceived the idea of build 
ing the Central Pacific east from California and had made his pre 
liminary surveys, he went to the established San Francisco capitalists 
for aid. But they told him that no railroad could be built if Congress 
did not pass a Pacific-railroad act, which was doubtful, and even if it 
did, the road could not be completed for 10 or 20 years; they therefore 
declined to participate in any such uncertain project. Judah, who 
thought he could finance the road by getting a million subscriptions 
of $100 each, then went to Sacramento to try to get funds to make 
further surveys, and he held public meetings, at which nobody sub 
scribed very much, "some a barrel of flour and some a sack of pota 
toes." If it had not been for the willingness to gamble of the four 
Sacramento merchants, Huntington, Hopkins, Crocker, and Stanford, 
he would not have been able to continue his surveys, and four vast 
California fortunes would never have been made. These men, with a 
few others, agreed to share the expenses of Judah's work across the 
Sierras, estimating that it would probably cost them $15,000 or 
$20,000 apiece. And so the great Central Pacific-Southern Pacific rail 
way system, which came to monopolize the traffic of California, had 
its beginning. 

When General Palmer initiated the Denver and Rio Grande, he 
gathered a few friends of himself and William A. Bell around him, 
obtained subscriptions in England through BelPs acquaintances and in 
Philadelphia through his own contacts, and began the project of build 
ing a road from Denver, population 4,800, to Pueblo, population 500, 
without government aid and with no visible means of support. Ade 
quate financing of the road could come only through his own clever 
manipulations, and its support had to rest entirely on his own faith, 
enthusiasm, and personality. 

As to the deep and devious devices used to finance and extract If ofits 
from the Union Pacific, it need only be said that, despite 



66 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

land-grants and heavy subsidies made by the Federal Government for 
the building of the road, New York capitalists would not put money 
into it ; that the friends of Durant were so doubtful that they refused 
to increase their small initial subscriptions until he made himself 
personally responsible for three-fourths of the $2,000,000 needed; and 
that the much-criticized building contracts entered into by Oakes 
Ames and other insiders could not be sublet to outside contractors at 
any price and were characterized at the time by Horace Clarke, Cor 
nelius Vanderbilt's son-in-law and a director of the New York Central, 
as "the wildest contracts he ever knew to be made by a civilized 
man." 

When such risks were undertaken, it is not surprising that those who 
took them felt they had a right to large, even exorbitant, returns. The fa 
vorite device by which the financial backers of the Western railroads ob 
tained their first and largest profits was through the organization of 
contracting companies. Once money was procured by the railroad com 
pany for the building of track, a second company would be organized 
by the insiders to contract for the construction, at highly profitable 
figures. The backers of the project, sitting as the board of directors 
of the railway, would enter into a contract with themselves, as direc 
tors of the contracting company, to build the road at so much a mile, 
and when the trackage was completed, the large profits would be 
divided. The Union Pacific carried on these building operations through 
the Credit Mobilier and other subsidiary organizations; the Central 
Pacific, through Charles Crocker and Company and the Contract and 
Finance Company. The financial details of the transactions of the 
Credit Mobilier came to light through a Congressional investigation, 
which rocked the nation, smudged a number of Senators and Repre 
sentatives with the tar of bribery, and caused the official censure of 
Oakes Ames, member of Congress and brother and partner of the 
president of the Union Pacific. There is no reason to believe that 
the profits of the Contract and Finance Company were proportion 
ately any less; but the books of the company having providentially 
disappeared, no detailed analysis of its operations was ever made 
public. 

The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 provided that the Union Pacific 
could build from Omaha to the California state line and the Central 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 67 

Pacific from San Francisco to the Nevada line with a government 
subsidy of one-half the land in a strip 20 miles wide on either side 
of the track, a total of 33,000,000 acres. To provide ready money the 
Government agreed to turn over to the railroad, as certain sections 
of the tracks were completed, official bonds of the United States as 
follows: east of the Rockies and west of the Sierras, sixteen $1,000 
6 per cent 30-year bonds per mile ; from the base line of the Rockies 
through the mountains, three times this subsidy, or $48,000 per mile ; 
for the plateau region between the Rockies and the Sierras, $32,000 
a mile. Thus the Government offered $61,000,000 for the building of 
the Pacific railroad, not as a gift, but as a loan to be repaid from 
earnings. 

It would seem that, with these rich subsidies, capital would have 
leapt at the chance of sharing in the enterprise. Yet the stock- 
subscription books of the Union Pacific were opened throughout the 
country in 1862 with the discouraging result that only thirty-one shares 
of $1,000 each were subscribed and $17,300 paid in. Capitalists felt 
that the project was too much of a gamble; prices of labor and mate 
rials were too high ; the country was distraught by the war and most 
of the able-bodied men were in the Army; there was a long gap be 
tween the Eastern railways and Omaha, making it necessary to trans 
port supplies by the Missouri River. Hence, few wanted to invest in 
so hazardous and costly an enterprise. Had it not been for visionary 
faith or business shrewdness, or a combination of both, on the part 
of Vice-President Thomas C. Durant, the building of the Union Pa 
cific would have been postponed indefinitely. But he was so anxious to 
proceed, at all hazards, that he made stock subscriptions of his own 
and worked assiduously to secure others from his friends. By dint of 
much effort and by promising to buy stock back should the original 
purchasers wish to withdraw, he obtained $218,000 from a group which 
included August Belmont, of New York; J. Edgar Thompson, president 
of the Pennsylvania Railroad, of Philadelphia; and Joseph H. 
Scranton, of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Ground was immediately broken 
at Omaha, on December 2, 1863, some $200,000 or $300,000 was bor 
rowed, and the road was constructed for 40 miles; when, all funds 
being exhausted, the company began to sell its materials and cars to 
raise money. 



68 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

No further support from eastern capitalists could be obtained until 
Congress passed the Act of 1864 doubling the government land-grants, 
permitting the railroad to issue bonds to the same value as the gov 
ernment bonds, and relegating the government loans to the rank of 
second mortgages. Even then it was hard for the road to get money, 
but $2,000,000 was finally subscribed and the contracting began. Now 
the original backers began to see a way to get their first profits. A 
committee of the board entered into a contract with one H. M. Hoxie 
to build roo miles of track at $50,000 per mile, later extended to 
247.45 miles and to cost a total of over $12,000,000. Hoxie was assisted 
in his contracting operations by being exempted from paying more 
than $85,000 for any one bridge; the cost of iron above $130 a ton 
at Omaha was to be borne by the Union Pacific ; if cottonwood ties had 
to be "Burnetized" to make them more durable, 16 cents apiece was 
to be paid. The contract also provided that Hoxie should cause to be 
subscribed $500,000 of capital stock of the railway at par, which, 
as a matter of fact, was worth only 30 per cent of this amount at the 
time. However, Hoxie was never called upon to do any of these things, 
because, according to agreement, he obligingly assigned his contract 
to persons designated by Vice- President Durant. To take up the con 
tract $1,600,000 was subscribed, and the greater part of this liability 
was divided as follows: Thomas C. Durant, $600,000; C. S. Bushnell, 
$400,000; H. W. Gray, $200,000; Charles A. Lambard, $100,000. Only 
one-fourth of the subscriptions was paid in, however, and with this 
$400,000 the partners started in to execute the Hoxie contract. But 
even with the prospect of large profit it offered, some of them grew 
so worried that they were willing to lose their first payments and 
refused to pay the second instalment. Consequently Durant had to 
look for more and new capital, and to this end he succeeded in inter 
esting the brothers Oakes and Oliver Ames, of Easton, Massachusetts. 

Oakes Ames, who, with his brother, was to become the ruling power 
in the Union Pacific, was described as follows by a contemporary 
writer : 

Mr. Ames's reputation as a financier stood high throughout the country. 
His business life had been commenced by the manufacture of shovels on 
an enormous scale; he was the King of Spades for the whole land. The 
failure of a firm, the largest in the world, engaged in the manufacture of 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 69 

agricultural implements, and on whose stock he held a mortgage, had made 
him and his firm the fortunate owners of other factories at Worcester and 
Groton Junction. Starting from one of the small homes of New England, 
he had become a millionaire before he arrived at middle age. As years 
rolled on and wealth increased, his business reputation lifted him into 
Congress. In that body he was a prominent member of the Pacific Railroad 
Committee, and must have been thoroughly cognizant of these great offers, 
if he did not, as is most probable, actually inspire them. He was honest, as 
the world reckons honesty; his word was perfectly good, nor were his 
plans above or below the morality of Wall Street. He well knew the com 
mercial value of a reputation for integrity, and made that value his 
standard. So clear-headed was he, that doing a private business of millions 
of dollars a year, though guiding the affairs of a large firm, carrying on 
three separate factories, attending Congress, and building more than one 
railroad, he kept no books and employed no bookkeeper for his private 
affairs; nothing but dates was ever forgotten by this capacious brain. He 
had no dread of large sums; no objections to taking a contract for forty- 
seven millions of dollars provided the margin for profit was sufficiently 
large; and he testified that he never once saw the books which kept the 
account of his contract for that amount. He believed to some extent, in the 
integrity of men, but acted on their selfishness ; and he worked for profit 
rather than for patriotism. He would have the road built for the good of 
the nation; but he took hold of it for his own advantage. 

It soon became evident that large capital could not be raised under 
the scheme first used by Durant, that of assigning contracts to a 
group of partners, for under this arrangement each member was liable 
to the extent of his property. So it was decided to form a corporation 
with wide powers of operation and limited liability. Such a corpora 
tion, the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency, was discovered already organ 
ized but inactive. It had been modeled after the Credit Mobilier of 
France, and to it, as agent of Durant and Ames, went George Francis 
Train, famous as an eccentric and promoter, who purchased its charter 
for $26,645. When this charter was taken to New York, the corpora 
tion was rechristened the Credit Mobilier of America, and each large 
stockholder of the Union Pacific subscribed for the same number of 
shares of its stock, at $10 each, as he owned in the railroad company. 
Durant took 6,041 shares; Oliver Arnes, 3,125; and Oakes Ames, 900 
shares. 

Now the operations that later drew the fire of Congressional inves 
tigation were begun. The Hoxie contract was assigned to the Credit 



70 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Mobilier, and $2,500,000 was subscribed for its stock. Meanwhile, the 
bonds advanced to the Union Pacific by the Government were sold 
for what they would bring, and about $4,000,000 of the Union Pacific 
bonds were used for borrowing at an annual interest of 14 to 15 per 
cent. But all funds were soon exhausted, and a meeting was called at 
the Fifth Avenue Hotel to increase the capital stock of the Credit 
Mobilier by 50 per cent. Even at this stage of the game it was neces 
sary to hold out special inducements to get stockholders to increase 
their subscriptions; so it was voted to give the holders of stock a 
$1,000 railroad bond for every $1,000 they subscribed to the Credit 
Mobilier. Since the Union Pacific bonds were then selling at 90 cents 
or more on the dollar, the Credit Mobilier stock could thus be ob 
tained for five or ten cents on the dollar. Nearly all stockholders 
accepted the offer. But even after the terms of the profitable Hoxie 
contract had been extended to cover 58 additional miles of work, at 
$50,000 a mile, the finances of the Union Pacific and the Credit Mo 
bilier were still strained, and capital was hard to get. It was so diffi 
cult to interest investors that C. S. Bushnell, one of the directors, 
was commissioned to undertake the sale of a large block of first- 
mortgage bonds on which the road was borrowing money at the rate 
of i4 T /2 per cent. Only by means of a widespread advertising and 
selling campaign did he succeed in disposing of these bonds, but his 
publicity effort brought in $10,0000,000 and raised the price of the 
bonds from 90 to 95. 

After several minor contracts had been arranged, the railroad en 
tered into what has been called the largest contract ever made, up to 
that time, with one man. It was with Oakes Ames for the construction 
of 667 miles of road, at prices varying according to the character 
of the country, and it aggregated $47,915,000. The contractor was to 
receive payment as follows: 100 miles at $42,000 per mile, 167 at 
$45,000, 100 at $96,000, 100 at $80,000, 100 at $90,000, and 100 at 
$96,000. The prices were high for the eastern sections, but not exorbi 
tant for the western sections; and here again considerable risk was 
involved, for the contract stated that if proceeds from the mileage 
bonds were not sufficient to pay for the building of the difficult por 
tions of the road, the contractor must himself subscribe for enough 
stock at par to furnish money for meeting the deficit. By complicated 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 71 

legal arrangements this contract was assigned to the Credit Mobilier, 
and a third contract was made with James W. Davis to build the road 
from the 935 mile-post to Ogden. 

Undoubtedly, the cost of the road was high under these contracts, 
and there was considerable juggling of business arrangements, so that 
in at least one case (that of the Boomer contract) duplicate payments 
were made by the Union Pacific to two contractors for work that had 
been performed by only one. But the fact remains that up to the fall 
of 1867, when the Ames contract was let, the Union Pacific project 
was still so precarious that it was obliged to borrow money in New 
York at the ruinous rates of 18 and 19 per cent, and the stock of the 
Credit Mobilier had never had any market value. 

Moreover, this was no ordinary building effort. The actual cost of 
the construction of the road was greatly increased by reason of the 
necessity of completing it quickly, and the saving of six years of 
the time allowed for building by the Government doubled the cost to 
the contractors. If the work had not been completed until the time- 
limit fixed, July i, 1874, the weight of interest on borrowed money, 
with no income from traffic to offset it, would have crushed the Union 
Pacific. Consequently, speed was made the essence of the building 
contract: four or five miles of track were laid per day, and the cost 
of this one item of labor rose accordingly from $600 to $1,500 a mile. 
Work stopped neither summer nor winter, and Dodge declares that 
in winter the cost of blasting the frozen earth was sometimes as great 
as that of blasting rock, as high as $3 a cubic yard. He says : 

We laid the track over the Wasatch Range in the dead of winter on top 
of snow and ice, and I have seen a whole train of cars, track and all, slide 
off the bank and into the ditch as a result of a thaw and the ice that 
covered the banks. We built almost as rapidly through the winter as we 
did during the summer, notwithstanding the short cold days and long 
nights, but it was at an immense cost. We estimated that the work during 
that winter made an extra cost to the road of at least $10,000,000. 

The Government further increased expenses by stipulating that only 
American iron could be used, increasing the cost $10 for every ton 
of rails laid. The government commissioners interfered constantly, 
requiring, for example, against Dodge's advice, that a cut be made 



72 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

through each rise in the Laramie Plains, making the track a dead level 
instead of conforming to the contour of the land; between $5,000,000 
and $10,000,000 was spent following out this order, and it was then 
found that snow blockaded the cuts in winter, so they all had to be 
refilled. The Government required that machine-shops be built at 
the crossing of the North Platte, and although these were worth noth 
ing to the company, they cost $300,000. Finally, one of the commission 
ers demanded $25,000 before he would approve the work done by the 
railroad, and this blood-money was paid. Moreover, although the Ames 
contract looks juicy to-day, the risk involved in building the more 
difficult portions of the road was so great that it was impossible to 
sublet the work to any established contractors. And there was a time 
in the progress of the enterprise when it would have been delayed 
for years if Oakes Ames had not sacrificed his personal fortune, say 
ing, "We must save the credit of the road. I will fail." 

In the days when money was hard to collect for the Union Pacific, 
Durant even went so far as to enlist the cooperation of his old enemy, 
General Dodge, in attempting to lure the dollars from the pockets 
of recalcitrant investors. In 1866 he organized a party of "150 promi 
nent citizens, capitalists and ladies to see the railroad and the coun 
try." This party, dubbed the "joy-riders of 1866," included Sidney 
Dillon, John Duff, John Sherman, Senator Wade, Joseph Medill, 
George M. Pullman, Robert Todd Lincoln, Monsieur Odilon Barrot, 
Secretary of the French Embassy, Marquis Chambrun, and "Mr. and 
Mrs. George Francis Train and maid." In addition, there were certain 
government directors of the Union Pacific the Hon. W. M. White, 
General Simpson, and General Curtis, who rode in a coach which had 
been built for Abraham Lincoln, the one that also bore his body to 
Springfield. 

J. R. Perkins tells the story in his biography of General Dodge : * 

When Durant and party arrived in Omaha their equipment resembled an 
old-fashioned traveling show. There was a band, a caterer, six cooks, a 
photographer, three tonsorial artists, a sleight-of-hand performer, and a 
printing press. They had provisions enough to feed a regiment and of a 
kind that a regiment never ate. One of the menus included, beef, mutton, 

* J. R. Perkins, Trails, Rails and War (copyright, 1929) . Quoted by special per 
mission of the publishers, the Bobbs-Merrill Company. 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 73 

roasted ox, broiled ham, corned beef, roasted antelope, Chinese duck, 
Roman goose, peas, tomatoes, asparagus, salad, potatoes, cheese, pickles, 
pineapples, strawberries, damsons, peaches and cherries, to which should 
be added, as representing the principal feature of the unpublished wine- 
list, Verzenay, Ve Max Sutaine Et Cie, T. W. & G. D. Bayaud, Sole agents 
of the United States and Canada. 

From Omaha the excursionists went out over the new Union Pacific 
Railroad to the camp Dodge had prepared on the Loup Fork River, and, 
after a big supper, a bonfire dance and a musical program, they retired to 
their tents. At three o'clock the next morning Dodge took an engine and 
crossed the river to where Major North was camped with his Pawnee 
scouts, loaded them on the coal-tender, the pilot, and wherever an Indian 
could cling, and at dawn backed across the river to the camp of sleeping 
easterners. The Pawnees, following instructions to the letter, stole into the 
camp fully dressed in their war trappings and began to whoop at the top 
of their voices. The surprise was so complete that for the next minute great 
excitement prevailed and a couple of the ladies found it convenient to 
faint. But the whole affair ended in a friendly dance around the fire fol 
lowed by breakfast, and the Indians left the camp laden with gifts. 
Dodge conducted the excursionists on to the end of the road, and there 
were hunting parties in which buffalo and antelope were rounded up in 
droves so great that the amateur hunters could not miss them, and many 
Union Pacific bonds were negotiated over the fires that roasted the meat, 
just as the shrewd vice-president of the road had planned. 

In 1867, however, when it became fully apparent that the line was 
to be a success and that huge profits were to be realized from its 
building, there was no further difficulty in securing funds, and stock 
in the Credit Mobilier suddenly rose from nothing to a premium. 
Those who held it, for the most part, refused to sell, but the few sales 
recorded were for such fancy prices as $260 a share. 

As to how much profit was actually pocketed in building the Union 
Pacific, estimates differ. One writer of the period makes the follow 
ing appraisal : 

WHAT IT COST THE NATION 

Hoxie Contract $12,974,416.24 

Boomer " 1,104,000.00 

Ames " 57,140,102.94 

Davis " 23,331,768.10 



Total $94,650,287.28 



74 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

WHAT IT COST THE CREDIT MOBILIER 

Hoxie Contract $ 7,806,183.33 

Boomer " 0,000,000.00 

Ames " 27,285,141.99 

Davis " 15,629,633.62 



Total $5,7 2 ,958.94 



Profit $43,929,328.34 

On the other hand, Henry Kirke White's economic study, The History 
of the Union Pacific Railway, published by the University of Chicago 
in 1895, after exhaustive calculations of the value of the stocks and 
bonds given in payment for the work, reaches the conclusion that 
"the total profit appears to be $16,710,432.82, or slightly above 27^ 
per cent of the cost of the road. Considering the character of the 
undertaking and the time when it was carried through, this does not 
seem an immoderate profit." 

But in the Seventies, that drab period of discouragement, hard 
times, and disillusionment following the war, there was fertile soil for 
the muck-raker, and the affairs of the Union Pacific received ample 
attention. To its own ethical lapses, which were serious enough, were 
added other imaginary sins of omission and commission until it be 
came a symbol of all that was depraved and corrupting in public life. 
As the New York Sun remarked, "The public has long known in a 
vague sort of way that the Union Pacific railroad was a gigantic 
steal." An investigation was started by Congress, and Oakes ^Ames, 
Representative from Massachusetts, was given a vote of censure, being 
accused of trying to bribe every member who was found holding 
Credit Mobilier stock. As a matter of fact, his crime seems to have 
lain in selling them that stock at a price below market value when 
it was rising fast, not to influence any specific vote, but to get friends 
for the road among influential Congressmen. The result was that many , 
political fortunes were ruined, including that of Oakes Ames himself. 

General Dodge sums up his ideas on the profits made thus : 

The capitalization of the contracting company was only $1,000,000 at first 
and that company had to raise and expend $55,000,000 to build the road 
so when you apply the profits of those days to that large sum of money, 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 75 

it was small, but when you apply those profits to $1,000,000 of capital it 
was very large; and everybody took it that the simple investment of 
$1,000,000 carried these great profits to those men, when, in fact, they 
had to raise the $55,000,000 and go under obligations and take chances 
that very few would touch when the opportunity was presented to them. 

However distrustful of the Union Pacific conservative investors 
might be, in the end even the most sanguine hopes of its promoters 
were realized. At the request of the directors Dodge had estimated 
that the earnings might be $5,000 a year per mile, and to arrive at 
this figure he had boldly claimed all the traffic between America and 
Australia, Japan, and China, as well as the transcontinental trade. Yet 
within 10 years the earnings rose to nearly $12,000 a mile, and the 
road that "had cost three times as much as it was worth came to be 
worth many times more than the three times as much as it cost."," 4 

Out in California, those sanguine small-town merchants, Hopkins, 
Huntington, Stanford, and Crocker, found equal difficulty in inducing 
capitalists to believe that any money could be made out of such a 
crack-brained scheme as the Central Pacific Railway. The bankers 
knew that the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 150 miles wide, offered an 
almost impregnable barrier, requiring an ascent from Sacramento of 
nearly 7,000 feet in a distance of 105 miles; that from November to 
January the mountain trails were impassable because of snow; and 
that the prices of supplies were exorbitant because of both the war 
and the difficulty of getting them to California from the East without 
a railroad. Nevertheless, the Central Pacific Railroad Company was 
organized, in 1861, by these dealers in hardware, groceries, and miner's 
supplies, with a capital stock of $8,500,000 divided into $100 shares, 
of which each of the four merchants and the chief engineer, Theodore 
Judah, subscribed 150 shares. So slowly were funds collected, how 
ever, and so difficult were the surveying problems encountered, that 
it was not until 1863 that ground was broken for the railroad. On 
January 8, with a band playing in the rain and a crowd standing on 
bundles of straw to keep their feet dry, Leland Stanford, who had by 
this time become Governor of California, lifted the first shovel of 
dirt, on the river levee of Sacramento, and Charles Crocker called for 
nine cheers for the Central Pacific Railroad. 



7 6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

The first Pacific Railroad Act, that of 1862, was substantially in 
fluenced by the lobbying of Judah; but though it granted large sub 
sidies of land and loans to the Central Pacific, as to the Union Pacific, 
it did not induce purchases of the stock of the railroad. The subscrip 
tion books were kept open in San Francisco, in an office at the corner 
of Bush and Montgomery Streets, during November and December, 
1862, and February, 1863, with a net result of fifteen shares sold. 
Crocker personally went to Virginia City and tried to sell stock. Of 
this experience he said: "They wanted to know what I expected the 
road would earn. I said I did not know, though it would earn good 
interest on the money invested, especially to those who went in at 
bed rock. Well,' they said, 'do you think it will make 2 per cent a 
month? 7 c No, 7 said I, l l do not. 7 Well, 7 they answered, 'we can get 2 
per cent a month for our money here, 7 and they would not think of 
going into a speculation that would not promise that at once. 77 

There was little sale for either stock or mortgage bonds, and Stan 
ford says he bought back 2,300 shares of Central Pacific stock to 
accommodate a disgusted stockholder at 10 cents on the dollar. Even 
with the amended Pacific Railroad Act passed in 1864, which doubled 
the subsidies offered by the Government, it was apparent that the 
Central Pacific could not be built quickly without additional help. 
Accordingly the partners started a vigorous campaign for local aid. 
The arguments used were that the railroad would increase land-values, 
give wider markets, denser population, higher wages, lower prices, and 
greater prosperity. An advocate of subsidies to the road in Tulare 
County stated his reasons thus : 

It costs for passage to San Francisco from Visalia $25 and consumes 
generally a day and a half. By rail the trip could be made in eight hours, 
at a cost of $10, thus saving $15 and nearly a day in time. If on the 
average, each adult makes one visit per annum to the upper country, and 
taking 1,300, the number of registered voters, as the adult population, it 
costs every passenger for the round trip $50 in cash and three days in 
time excess over railway fare, $30; board for two extra days, $4; value 
of time at $2 per day, $4; total excess $38; total loss to 1,300 passengers, 
$49,400. I contend, therefore, that the people of Tulare County are now 
actually paying, in addition to the loss or inconvenience resulting from 
isolation from market, the sum of $77,780 per annum, for the privilege of 
being without a railroad. 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 77 

The result of this propaganda of the partners was that they finally 
obtained from San Francisco a donation of $650,000 on which they 
realized $475,000; from Sacramento, a subscription to stock yielding 
$190,000; and from Placer County, $160,000. Later they secured from 
the State of California the assumption of 7 per cent interest on 2o-year 
bonds, amounting to the sum of $1,500,000. But all these funds were 
a long time coming, and meanwhile the company struggled to meet 
expenses. 

One of the first things to be done was to erect an office building 
for the railway enterprise, and Judah proudly came forward with a 
design which he said would cost "only twelve thousand dollars. 7 ' 
Huntington snorted, took up a piece of chalk, and drew on the floor 
of his hardware store his design for the building. It was completed 
that same day and cost $150. Thus did the partners watch the expenses 
of the great railway enterprise as carefully as their own invoices of 
spades and shovels and cases of tomatoes. It was only thus that they 
could meet the bills for building their road, for none of them was 
wealthy, and, in the early stages of construction, credit was hard to 
get. Stanford's wholesale grocery store was assessed at $32,900. Hunt 
ington had a personal tax assessment of $7,222, and his partner Hopkins 
of $9,700, while their store was rated at $34,115. So cautious were 
these partners that they never bought a dollar's worth of stock in a 
mine, though mines were all around them. They never speculated in 
any form, never had a branch house, never sent out a drummer to 
get business, never gave more than $500 credit to anyone, never sued 
for a debt, and made it a cardinal rule never to sell any but good 
articles at the highest price they could get. And in the first meetings 
of the associates at 54 K Street, Huntington laid down the rule, soon 
to be prodigally violated, "We will pay as we go and never run a 
dollar in debt. If we can't pay a hundred workmen, we will pay fifty; 
if not fifty, ten ; if not ten, one. We will employ no more than we 
can pay." 

The work did not stop even though it was hard for the merchants 
to meet the pay-roll. In 1864 they sent Judah east to try to sell their 
franchise; but he died of fever crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and 
they had now gone so far that they could not turn back. The only 
thing to do, if they expected to recover their original investment, was 



78 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to keep on putting in more. Fortunately, Eastern capital would now 
buy the government bonds, even if it shied away from Central Pacific 
stock, so they were able to keep on. But expenses were terrific. Iron 
rails cost $91.70 per ton at the mill, with $51 added for transportation 
across Panama. Blasting-powder cost as much as $6 a pound, hay was 
$100 a ton, and Stanford says that he sold a potato for $2.50. Hunt- 
ington tells of inspecting the line and meeting some teams carrying 
ties in the mountains, and one can imagine how his merchant's heart 
bled at what he saw: 

They had seven ties on that wagon. I asked where they were hauled from 
and they said from a certain canon. They said it took three days to get a 
load up to the top of the Wahsatch Mountains and to get back to their 
work. I asked them what they had a day for their teams, and they said 
$10. This would make the cost of each tie more than $6. I passed back 
that way in the night in January, and I saw a large fire burning near the 
Wahsatch summit, and I stopped to look at it. They had, I think, some 
twenty-five ties burning. They said it was so fearfully cold they could not 
stand it without having a fire to warm themselves. 

It did not take the partners long to come to the conclusion that if 
they were to profit largely from the building of the Central Pacific, 
they would have to take over the building contracts. After a few 
contracts had been let to outsiders, Charles Crocker resigned from 
the directorate, organized Charles Crocker and Company, and began 
the building of the road. Various arguments were publicly advanced 
for this policy: "The independent contractors got to bidding against 
each other for laborers, and thus put up the price ; the smaller con 
tractors quarreled with each other, and tried to 'scoop' labor from 
each other ; they did not finish their sections in consecutive order, they 
did not hurry, and could not be sufficiently controlled." In June, 1865, 
Hopkins made a report to the president and directors of the Central 
Pacific which dwelt upon the necessity of rapid construction to capture 
the passenger and freight traffic between Sacramento and Virginia 
City and to comply with the acts of Congress and the state legislature. 
As Professor Stuart Daggett of the University of California states it, 
in^his History of the Southern Pacific: "Persons of large capital, he 
said, seemed unwilling to bind themselves to construct the road as 
rapidly as necessary. Charles Crocker and Company, on the other 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 79 

hand, had pushed and were pushing the work with extraordinary vigor 
and success, and had in all cases complied with the orders and direc 
tions of the officers of the company. He recommended, therefore, that 
arrangements be continued with that firm, at rates specified in an ac 
companying resolution." 

These rates were not by the mile but according to the class of work, 
such as clearing, grubbing, and rock-excavation, and Charles Crocker 
was left to make his classifications as he saw fit. Payments were to be 
made partly in cash and partly in stock valued at 30 cents on the 
dollar. The Central Pacific purchased the cars and locomotives needed 
and charged them to Crocker at cost. Under this contract the total 
payments made to Crocker were $23,654,828.15. This amounted to 
an average of $69,210 a mile, although he accepted his first contract 
out of Sacramento at $13,800 a mile. From this it appears that the 
profits were considerable, and these he undoubtedly shared with his 
associates, though just how is not clear. Despite the favorable contract, 
heavy risk was still involved, and Crocker says of his situation at 
this time, "It was decided that I should go on immediately and see 
what I could do. I did go on until we got tied up in suits and I had to 
stop. I could not get any money. They had all the money I had, and 
all I could borrow. That was the time that I would have been very 
glad to take a clean shirt, lose all I had, and quit." 

In 1867, when the road had reached the Nevada state line, the part 
ners decided that it would be best for Charles Crocker and Company 
to retire. They needed to attract outside capital, they said, before 
tackling the rest of the line, so they organized the Contract and 
Finance Company with a capital of $5,000,000. With this as an induce 
ment, they again tried to interest leading capitalists of New York and 
San Francisco, but the effort was a failure, and the associates had to 
take up the stock themselves. As with the Crocker contracts, the Cen 
tral Pacific provided the equipment and iron used and billed it to 
the Company at cost. There is no evidence to show that the partners 
paid any money for their stock. They gave their notes and then, as 
individuals, loaned money to the Finance Company to carry on its 
operations. The first contract was for 552 miles of track at $86,000 
per mile, half in cash, half in Central Pacific stock. Combining the 
Crocker contracts, the Central Pacific paid out to these two contracting 



8o THEY BUILT THE WEST 

companies a total of $33,761,992.72 in cash, $3,000,000 in bonds, and 
$38,437,710.32 in stock. As to the profits, Professor Daggett has this 
to say: 

If the conclusions of the United States Pacific Railway Commission are 
to be relied upon, and they were made by engineers relatively soon after the 
completion of the road, the builders of the Central Pacific were able to 
accomplish their contracts with the cash and the proceeds of the company's 
bonds that were turned over to them, and to retain their Central Pacific 
stock as a clear profit. If we compare this stock surplus with the probable 
cash investment in the road, taking the shares at any reasonable valuation, 
say at $15 or $20 per share, the profit does not seem excessive. If we 
compare it with the contributions of the associates, however, and this is 
the more reasonable because the associates received the full benefit of the 
difference between cost and receipts, it represents, on the most conservative 
calculation, 500 or 600 per cent for an investment which probably did not 
exceed $1,000,000, over a period of six years. To this should be added the 
proceeds of the land grant and of the local subsidies. 

Whatever may be said of the extent of the profits, it is equally true 
that the risk was also great. Daggett says that "at the time when the 
construction of the Central Pacific Railroad was finished the private 
property of every one of the directors of the company was mortgaged 
up to the limit of all his individual credit would possibly allow and 
bear. The notes of the four associates were outstanding everywhere, 
many of them bearing interest rates as high as from 10 to 12 per cent, 
and the statement is made that Leland Stanford alone upon one occa 
sion had his account at the bank overdrawn to the extent of 
$1,300,000." 

Yet we can hardly agree with the speech Stanford made when the 
golden spike was driven to join the Central Pacific and Union Pacific 
at Promontory Point. He criticized the Federal Government for its 
interference with the project, which was doubtless irritating enough 
at times, and in a burst of arrogance he declared that the subsidies 
granted the Central Pacific by the Government were more of a hin 
drance than a help. Dan Casement, the contractor, probably reflected 
the feelings of all present when he climbed on the shoulders of his 
brother and shouted to Stanford, "Mister President, if this here sub 
sidy has been such a big detriment to the building of your road, I 



EARLY RAILROAD FINANCING 8l 

move you, sir, that it be returned to the Government with your com 
pliments." 

Whatever criticism may be leveled against it, the financing of the 
building of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific was simple and 
childlike in comparison with the complicated operations that were 
indulged in later. Lawyers, business geniuses, and financiers combined 
their talents to create a complex financial structure for the railroads 
of the country which permitted the insiders to reap enormous profits 
and often to squeeze out other investors for large losses. The owners 
of the larger railroads controlled smaller roads which they leased to 
the larger at exorbitant rentals, turning surplus earnings into deficits. 
The directors also often made it a point to own the companies that 
made the repairs on the railroads, built and owned the bridges, oper 
ated the connecting ferries, sold the coal and supplies ; and every opera 
tion was apt to turn profits into their pockets. New issues of stocks 
and bonds flowed forth from the printing-presses in bewildering vari 
ety, part being sold to investors, part being freely bestowed on the 
insiders, with the result that the capital structures, upon which inter 
est and dividends had to be paid, were highly inflated. To meet the 
charges on these watered securities freight-rates had to be raised to 
inordinate heights, farmers and producers suffered, and the consumer 
had to pay the bill. When the bill grew so staggeringly heavy that it 
could no longer be borne, one after another of the railroads went 
through bankruptcy, receivership, and reorganization, with consequent 
loss to the owners of the stock, particularly the small owners. And 
the outcome was a continual tightening of the regulations by which 
the Government sought to control these servants of the public. 



CHAPTER V 

TOWN-BUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT OF RESOURCES 

ONE important source of revenue that was open to the backers 
of the early Western railroads was the building of cities. The 
fact that transportation facilities are of first importance in 
the development of centers of population had long been recognized in 
America. In 1792 Philadelphia interests spent the then enormous sum 
of $465,000 to build a 62-mile stone highway, the Lancaster Turnpike, 
and it quickly paid for itself by the trade it brought into the Quaker 
City. The Erie Canal poured the freight of the North and West into 
the Hudson and built the imperial city of New York. Washington 
had made its bid to bring traffic from the Middle West by way of the 
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, a project to cost millions of dollars. 
Baltimore, determined to hold on to her commercial supremacy, 
countered this move with the most revolutionary and spectacular 
scheme of all the building of America's first railroad, the Baltimore 
and Ohio. 

In the West, St. Louis calmly and majestically occupied her position 
as Queen City of the Mississippi, her hundreds of river-boats drawing 
in traffic from as far away as St. Paul, 740 miles to the north ; New 
Orleans, 1,200 miles south; Council Bluffs, 677 miles west on the 
Missouri; and Pittsburgh, 1,160 miles east on the Ohio. Disdainfully 
she looked at the little muddy, windy settlement at the foot of Lake 
Michigan, to the north, until she found that the men who lived there 
had made an important discovery. They had found that they could 
beat her in the race for commercial power by making their town a 
magnet for steel rails and centering there the transportation system 
of the country. And St. Louis was distressed to see that these shrewd 
and aggressive business men, disregarding all obstacles, were by sheer 
determination building a great city at Chicago. It was then that the 
editor of the Missouri Republic cried in anguish : 

82 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 83 

Have these people greater enterprise than ours? They do not appear to 
have greater industry or greater economy. They haven't greater natural 
advantages or acquired capital, yet whenever anything is to be done for the 
good of Chicago, someone is found to do it; whether to build a railroad or 
an elevator or a cattle pen or to prevent others building them for the 
advantage of some other place, there Chicago is, to do or to hinder the 
doing, as may be to her interest. Keen, sharp-sighted and long-sighted, 
quick and bold to the verge of audacity, persistent and, the censorious say, 
unscrupulous, they rush on, rejecting doubts and conquering difficulties, to 
triumphant prosperity. 

In uttering his cry of protest against the stripling city that was 
taking the railroads and commercial supremacy away from St. Louis, 
this newspaper man expressed the formula that has been successfully 
followed again and again in city-building: natural advantages plus 
transportation facilities plus aggressive men make cities. Since most 
places that men select for the sites of their communities have some 
natural advantages and the coming of transportation is a matter that 
can be influenced by individuals, the formula can almost be reduced 
to the simple phrase, Men make Cities. Given the leadership of aggres 
sive and far-sighted men and a tolerably favorable site for a city, 
transportation will come, business will come, population will come. 
Astute railroad-builders early realized that this was to be the story of 
the building of the great commercial centers of the West, and they 
acted upon it to their own advantage. 

The Central Pacific crowd played one existing California settlement 
against another in their effort to raise funds. As a member of the Cali 
fornia Constitutional Convention of 1879 P ut it, 

They start out their railway track and survey their line near a thriving 
village. They go to the most prominent citizens of that village and say, "If 
you will give us so many thousand dollars we will run through here; if you 
do not we will run by," and in every instance where the subsidy was not 
granted, that course was taken, and the effect was just as they said, to kill 
off the little town. Here was the town of Paradise, in Stanislaus County; 
because they did not get what they wanted, they established another town 
4 miles from there. In every instance where they were refused a subsidy, 
in money, unless their terms were acceded to, they have established a depot 
near to the place, and always have frozen them out. 

The Union Pacific people took a proprietary interest in Cheyenne 
and the other towns that were to be their division points, and they 



84 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

also played communities against each other, beginning with their en 
couragement of the fight between Council Bluffs, Omaha, and smaller 
communities for the eastern terminus. For all practical purposes the 
terminus was set at Omaha, which became a large city, but legally it 
was fixed, in accordance with Lincoln's order, at Council Bluffs. To-day 
travelers can see on the plains of the Missouri, near Council Bluffs, 
a solitary brick building known as the Union Pacific Transfer. Once 
the center of great activity, it is now merely a lonely sign-post mark 
ing the spot of the legal eastern terminus of the railroad. From 1857 
to 1864 Omaha was only a struggling village, but when the Union 
Pacific came, it suddenly bloomed into the liveliest city in the country. 
Since this was the supply-center for all the railroad operations to the 
west, the Union Pacific built immense car- and engine-houses and 
machine-shops, and by 1866 five or six hundred substantial buildings 
had been erected, one brick block costing $100,000. Business was rush 
ing; one grocery house had sales of $500,000 a year, and the pioneer 
merchants were making fortunes. The railroad spent a quarter of a 
million dollars a month in Omaha, and business lots sold for as much 
as $5,000. 

The Union Pacific associates profited from the development of 
Omaha and the other towns on their line through the organization of 
the Credit Foncier, a corporation in which George Francis Train was 
the moving spirit and which was "clothed by the Nebraska legislature 
with nearly every power imaginable save that of reconstructing the 
late rebel states." It erected rows of cottages in Omaha for the work 
men and sold them at a profit, and its real-estate operations assisted 
Mr. Train in profitably disposing of his own property in Omaha, 500 
acres of land which cost him only $175 an acre. This internationally 
known genius in real-estate speculation and railroad promotion, whose 
American schemes were to extend from the Missouri to Puget Sound, 
had risen from sweeping out a counting-house to the headship of a 
Boston shipping firm with a branch in Liverpool. Subsequently he 
became a commission merchant in Australia, and he astonished the 
natives with an office containing Brussels carpets and marble counters, 
where he served free champagne lunches daily for all customers. In 
later years he made the circuit of the world, inspiring Jules Verne's 
story of globe-trotting, fought British prejudice against street-railways, 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 85 

made audacious speeches on Fenianism, and was jailed in Dublin. He 
is credited with inventing the perforations on postage stamps (which 
used to be cut apart with scissors), erasers on pencils, folding carriage- 
steps, and tilting coal-wagons, as well as the fashion of wearing a 
flower in the buttonhole. Of him Albert D. Richardson said, 

Curiously combining keen sagacity with wild enthusiasm, a man who 
might have built the pyramids, or been confined to a strait jacket for 
his eccentricities, according to the age he lived in, he observes dryly that 
since he began to make money, people no longer pronounce him crazy! 
He says Chicago and San Francisco have more men of brains than any 
other cities in the world men who would know what to do in an earth 
quake, a fire, or a shipwreck a definition of brains worthy of Fosco. He 
drinks no spirits, uses no tobacco, talks on the stump like an embodied 
Niagara, composes songs to order by the hour as fast as he can sing them, 
remembers every droll story from Joe Miller to Artemus Ward, is a born 
actor, intensely in earnest, and has the most absolute and outspoken faith 
in himself and his future. 

Train and the Credit Foncier were intimately connected with the 
building of all the early towns on the Union Pacific. They had the 
inside track on developments, but the whole course of the building 
of the Pacific railway was marked by contests between towns, banking 
interests, and real-estate groups to secure advantage from ownership 
of property along the route. Of the Cheyenne enterprise General Dodge 
says, 

In the winter of 1867-68 the end of our track was at Cheyenne. During 
the winter there had assembled a very large number of people; possibly it 
was the greatest gambling place ever established on the plains, and it was 
full of desperate characters. The town of Cheyenne we had claimed, laid 
out and leased the lots to occupants, and organized the local government. 
There was then no title to be obtained to the town, but we treated it as all 
the towns, claiming it for the company, laying it out into town lots and 
not allowing anyone to locate there without taking an agreement from us 
allowing them to occupy it and agreeing to deed it to them when we got 
the title. 

What sort of communities did the early Western railway-builders 
find already established? In Kansas there was, for example, Ellsworth, 
at the end of the cattle-trail from Texas, of which Bell says in his 
report of General Palmer's surveying party, 



86 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

We passed through Ellesworth, a wonderful place, having seven or eight 
stores, two hotels, fifty houses of other kinds, occupied by nearly a thou 
sand persons, and yet just one month old. Six weeks ago the wild buffalo 
was roaming over its site, and the Indians scalped a foolish soldier whom 
they caught sleeping where the new school-house now stands. The day of 
the buffalo and Indian have passed for ever; never again will the one graze, 
or the other utter a war whoop on this spot. 

In Colorado there was the more or less Mexican town of Trinidad, 
of which Bell wrote, 

It consists of a main street lined on either side by adobe houses of one 
story, with flat roofs and few rooms. Many of these were stores belonging 
to American traders, and well stocked with goods; two of them were 
billiard-saloons, and two were boarding-houses all American innovations. 
There was no public-house proper, but strong drinks were sold at every 
one of these establishments, and, so far as I could make out, at every house 
in town. "Liquoring up" seems to be the sole amusement of the inhabitants. 
It commences before breakfast, goes on all day, and begins again with 
renewed vigour at sunset. 

At Trinidad General Palmer held a railroad meeting 

at which everything was said that could be said to enlighten the populace, 
and to explain to them the wonderful results to be expected when "El 
cameno de fiero cari!" should traverse the territory. The speeches had all 
to be re-delivered in Spanish by an interpreter, and so impressively was 
the subject put that none could help seeing that their fortune was only a 
matter of time provided the railway passed near enough to their properties. 
This difficulty was easily overcome by promising any number of branch 
lines, and thus the meeting ended most auspiciously, and all the resolutions 
were in due form carried unanimously. 

To the south there was Albuquerque, later to be reached by the Santa 
Fe, but included in General Palmer's surveys. And there Bell observed 
that the prime characteristic of all the early Western settlers was the 
ambition to make money: 

Money-making is, of course, the great desideratum which attracts the 
white man to so out-of-the-way a country, far from home, and often also from 
all that is dear to him. Once here, he cares little what he does provided it 
pays. The most entertaining man of the evening at Albuquerque was a 
young Southerner, who kept us in roars of laughter with his droll stories, 
while he did the honours of the evening with the most delightful ease and 
good breeding. At parting, he told us that we should be called early next 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 87 

morning to visit some of the fruit gardens and take an early breakfast 
breakfast No. i of grapes and peaches. "You must come and see me on 
your way," said he; "I am the butcher of Albuquerque, and as the people 
must have their chops, you must excuse my absence." So next morning, as 
we were being conducted to the vineyards, we recognized our friend with 
blue blouse and paper cap knife in hand, performing wonders in dissec 
tion upon his slaughtered sheep. Two hours later, on our return to the 
hotel, we stopped at the office of the Albuquerque Chronicle. At the door 
we met the editor and proprietor, who, to our great amusement, was no 
other than our facetious host of the night before, the butcher of Albu 
querque, and now, bereft of blouse, the energetic editor of the daily paper. 
Is not a lesson to be learned from this little sketch of western life? I 
would at least respectfully recommend it to the consideration of our 
would-be emigrants. 

Last and most exciting of all the communities to greet the railroad- 
builders was the mile-high city of Denver, which the gold-camps of 
the Rockies, particularly the Gregory Diggings at Central City, were 
making a center of business, industry, and dissipation. Even the mod 
ern Western movies could hardly improve on this wild and woolly 
capital of the Rockies, where every fifth building was a saloon and 
every tenth a gambling-hell and every inhabitant carried "at least a 
revolver and perhaps a knife suspended from his belt." 

These towns were typical of what the early railroad-builders found, 
but they were more interested in making towns of their own than in 
cultivating the few communities already established. Whether the rail 
road officials wished it or not, there was always the moving hell-on- 
wheels at the head of the tracks, ready to take the money of the 
free-spending laborers ; and in some cases, as at Cheyenne, these lurid 
trains of camp-followers were converted into permanent settlements 
through the establishment of the division points of the railroad system. 
In later years, when the Northern Pacific was being built, one of the 
towns at the head of the rails in eastern Washington was christened 
Hell-to-Pay. But when the country had become more settled and it 
was necessary to include the name on dignified time-tables, the rail 
road officials felt they must make the title more high-sounding and 
respectable; so they changed the spelling to make it read Eltopia, 
and so it remains. 

For a contemporary picture of the town-making along the early 



88 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Western railroads, we must again become heavily indebted to that 
witness with the keen eye and colorful pen, William A. Bell. 

Wholesale town-making may not be a romantic theme, or one capable of 
being made very attractive to the general reader; but it is the great char 
acteristic of this part of our route, and is only to be seen to perfection 
along the line of these great railways. On the Platte, where the central 
line across the continent often advances at the rate of two miles a day, 
town-making is reduced to a system. The depot at the end of the line is 
only moved every two or three months; and as rich valleys are far scarcer 
in this section of country than in Kansas, the town usually moves also, 
while nothing remains to mark the spot where thousands lived, but a 
station, a name, and a few acres of bare earth. Last winter, Cheyenne was 
the terminal depot on this route, and increased in size to 5,000 inhabitants. 
A man I met at Denver, who had just come from Cheyenne, told me that 
while he was standing on the railway platform, a long freight train arrived, 
laden with frame houses, boards, furniture, palings, old tents, and all the 
rubbish which makes up one of these mushroom cities. The guard jumped 
off his van, and seeing some friends on the platform, called out with a 
flourish, "Gentlemen, here's Julesburg." The next train probably brought 
some other city, to lose for ever its identity in the great Cheyenne 

Thousands of dollars are daily won and lost all along the line by specu 
lating in town lots. A spot is chosen in advance of the line, and is marked 
off into streets, blocks, and town lots, sometimes by the railway company, 
sometimes by an independent land company. As the rails approach it, the 
fun begins, and up goes the price of the lots, higher and higher. At last it 
becomes the terminal depot the starting-point for the western trade 
where the goods are transferred from the freight vans to the ox trains, and 
sent off to Denver, to Santa Fe, Fort Union, and other points. It then 
presents a scene of great activity, and quickly rises to the zenith of its 
glory. Town lots are bought up on all sides to build accommodation for the 
traders, teamsters, camp-followers, and loafers, who seem to drop from 
the skies. This state of things, however, lasts only for a time. The terminal 
depot must soon be moved forward, and the little colony will be left to its 
own resources. If the district has good natural advantages, it will remain; 
if not, it will disappear, and the town lots will fall to nothing. Salina, when 
we were there, was just at this zenith stage of existence; so I shall describe 
it as we found it. 

On the open grass land between the Smoky River and the Salina Fork 
several broad streets could be seen, marked out with stakes, and crossing 
each other like a chess-board. The central one was deeply cut up with 
cart-rucks, and strewn with rubbish. There had been heavy rains, and the 
mud was so deep that it was almost impossible to move about. On each 
side of this main street were wooden houses, of all sizes and in all shapes 




ffi 



be 



-S3 
OK 

2 




A DESERTED RAILROAD TOWN IN KANSAS 
Harper's Weekly, 1874. 




IN THE GARDEN OF THE GODS 
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 89 

of embryonic existence. Not a garden fence or tree anywhere to be seen. 
Still paddling about in the mud, we came to the most advanced part of the 
city, and here we found three billiard saloons, each with two tables, and 
the everlasting bar. Then came the ice-cream saloon; then a refreshment 
saloon. Next we could scarcely believe our eyes appeared the office of 
the Salina Tribune (I will not vouch for the name). All these institutions, 
as well as a temporary school-house, and several small well-stocked shops 
made of wood unpainted, evidently represented first principles the actual 
necessities, in fact, of Western life. Opposite was a row of substantial 
stores, having their fronts painted. The builder here was evidently a rash 
speculator. He did not look upon Salina as a Julesburg, but intended to 
tide over the stage of depression. Each of these houses was already in 
habited and piles of unpacked goods lay fronting them in the streets. On 
each side was an hotel, at the door of which it being just mid-day the 
landlord was ringing furiously a great bell to announce to the inhabitants 
that dinner was ready. And what a dinner! fried fish, fried mutton, fried 
eggs, fried mush (a great luxury), fried potatoes, and fried pudding all 
swimming in grease; bad coffee without milk, dough cakes without butter, 
and muddy water out of dirty glasses. Trying to escape up a side street, we 
discovered the Methodist Chapel, the Land Agency Office, labelled "De 
sirable town lot for sale," the Masonic Hall (temporary building), and the 
more pretentious foundations of the Free School, Baptist Chapel, and 
Episcopal Church. The suburbs consisted of tents of all shapes and forms, 
with wooden doors; shanties, half canvas, half wood. These were owned by 
squatters upon unsold lots. All around were scattered the empty tins of 
the period, labelled in large letters, "desiccated vegetables," "green corn," 
"pears," "peaches," "oysters," and other untold luxuries. 

Still farther from the centre, dotted here and there, white and glistening 
in the sun, we could see the camps of the bull trains, each made up from 
ten to twenty huge wagons, covered with white canvas, coralled sometimes 
in the form of a square, sometimes of a circle, so as to form a place of 
protection if attacked by Indians. An unusually wet season, and the fearful 
depredations caused by the red-men further west, detained an unusual 
number of these trains at that time around Salina. Partly shutting out the 
horizon on two sides, was a continuous belt of rich green trees. These might 
have been the commencement of a fine forest; but alas! as we came up to 
them, we found only two rows one on each side of the river; and beyond, 
the same broad sea of grass, the undulating plain, relieved only by some 
distant bluffs. The grass was rich and abundant a very fortunate circum 
stance; for everywhere were to be seen the droves of oxen, mules, and 
horses belonging to the wagon trains, feeding and fattening on their idle 
ness. About the railroad station, and on each side of the line for some 
distance, lay pile after pile of the munitions, not of war but of peace 



gO THEY BUILT THE WEST 

iron rails, oaken ties, cradles and pins, contractors' cars, little houses on 
wheels, trucks innumerable, both empty and full ; while at the opposite side 
to the town, our picturesque little camp of twenty wall tents, formed in a 
square, and flanked by our wagons and ambulances, lay peaceful and cool 
on the short greensward. 

But the railroad-builders were not the only ones who profited from 
the building of towns in the West. As the tracks pushed forward over 
the prairies, that boom psychology which has ever been an outstand 
ing characteristic of the West and of Westerners began to put forth its 
gorgeous blossoms. While the most solidly founded town developments 
were made by the railroads themselves or their subsidiaries, there 
were plenty of independent real-estate promoters who were willing to 
guess where the roads were to establish division points and to dream 
rosy dreams of the future possibilities of any city site where land could 
be obtained, however unfavorable it might be. It was no trouble to 
build new cities on paper. Land was cheap. The Homestead Act per 
mitted an actual settler to take up 160 acres of government land which 
he could purchase for a nominal sum by "preempting." Although this 
was designed to apply only to persons who intended to make their 
homes on the land, it was customary for any one interested to ride 
into the interior, select a claim, erect four posts around a hollow 
square on the ground, and file a notice in the land-office that he had 
laid the foundation of a house and begun settlement. In 30 days the 
homesteader could "prove up" his claim, in the meantime having 
erected a cheap slab house, unfit to live in but giving the appearance 
of a building, or, perhaps, having only four logs and posts to mark the 
site. A witness would swear that a habitable dwelling had been erected, 
and, having paid $1.25 an acre for the land, within a few months the 
homesteader would receive a government patent to his claim. Usually 
the new owner's connection with his homestead ended at this point, 
and he sold his land. When the homestead racket was at its height, 
claims used to be preempted by the use of houses on wheels, which 
were rented and hauled from one claim to another as necessity dic 
tated; and it was not unusual to find a windowless shack with a 
window-sash hanging inside on a nail, this luxurious adjunct enabling 
the witness to swear that the homesteader's house "has a window in 
it," as required by the land-office. 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 91 

Once the land was patented, it could be sold to an incorporated 
town-site company, which itself could stake out 320 acres of govern 
ment land as a town-site and by adding surrounding homestead claims 
could increase its holdings to a thousand acres or more. Then the 
land would be cut into building-lots, usually 25 by 125 feet, and a 
selling campaign begun. If the town was a success, the promoters 
grew rich ; if it failed, little was lost, for the land cost but a trifle. 
In 1867 there were a number of such towns in Kansas: Wyandotte, 
four months old, population 400, with shares of ten building-lots 
selling for $1,800; Doniphan, 1,500 acres, population 300, with shares 
selling at $500; Geary City, where shares had advanced from $250 to 
$400 within a week. And the residents of each embryo metropolis, 
as well as the promoters thereof, could give unanswerable arguments 
as to why their community was to be the future St. Louis of the ter 
ritory. 

Of the land-boom at Osawkee, Kansas, Albert D. Richardson writes 
in Beyond the Mississippi: 

In July one hundred thousand acres of public lands were sold at Osawkee, 
Jefferson county. Theoretically to the highest bidder; actually each 
quarter-section to its occupant at its appraised value: from one dollar and 
fifty cents, to four dollars and fifty cents per acre. The "settler," who lived 
fifty or a hundred miles away, had built a cabin or driven a stake upon 
his claim, and could therefore swear that he was a bona fide resident! The 
constructive squatters respected each others 7 rights and protected their 
own. The first man who ventured to bid against one of them was instantly 
shot down; so there was no further competition. Many sold their newly- 
acquired lands to speculators at double the cost within an hour after 
bidding them off. But hundreds borrowed money at five per cent, a month, 
and invested it here. I knew a Tennessean who loaned funds at this rate to 
forty-five young men, taking the Government title to each tract in his own 
name, but giving a bond to deed it back to the actual purchaser upon the 
payment of principal and interest. Two years later, he told me that he 
still held every one, as not a single note had been paid. Money abounded 
and times were flush. One evening I borrowed one hundred and fifty 
dollars from a total stranger, to aid in purchasing a quarter-section; for I 
had not escaped the universal mania. When I offered a mortgage as se 
curity, he replied: "It would be some trouble to have the papers drawn, 
and cost us five or ten dollars. Just send me the money by express within 
two or three weeks." 

David's covetousness for the wife of Uriah, was no stronger than the 



92 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

lust of the frontier Yankees for territory. Town shares and quarter- 
sections passed as currently as bank-notes or gold dollars. It was history 
repeating itself; for in the early days of Tennessee, people in trading used 
to say: "I will give you a three-twenty," or "I will take a six-forty." Six 
hundred and forty acres near the present city of Nashville, once sold for 
three axes and two cow-bells. "The circulating medium of Europe is gold, 
of Africa, men, of Asia, women, and of America, land." Two thousand 
people attended the sales at Osawkee. In this interior town of a dozen 
houses, a huge hotel had been erected; every building was crowded, and 
hundreds of strangers lived in tents, or slept on the grass in the open air. 
Streets were filled with blinding dust, and heated like furnaces by the July 
sun; gambling and drinking booths stood upon every corner; reeking odors 
poisoned the air, and a new Coleridge might have sung of this mushroom 
Cologne: 

In Colin, a town of monks and bones, 
And pavements fanged with murderous stones, 
And rags, and bugs, and hideous wenches, 
I counted five and seventy stenches. 

When Themistocles at a feast was asked to play upon a musical instru 
ment, he replied: "I cannot fiddle; but I know how to make a small town 
a great city." Every Kansan thought himself a Themistocles. Nearly all 
transactions were cash, and money was plentiful, though commanding from 
three to five per cent, a month. Shares often doubled in price in two or 
three weeks. Servant girls speculated in town lots. From enormous buff 
envelopes men would take scores of certificates elegantly printed in colors, 
representing property in various towns, and propose to sell thousands of 
dollars worth, certain to quadruple in value within a few months 1 If you 
declined to purchase, they might ask to borrow six shillings to pay their 
washerwoman, or twelve dollars for a week's board. Three days later, 
meeting you again, they would cancel the debt from pockets burdened with 
twenty-dollar gold pieces, and offer you five hundred or a thousand dollars 
for a few days, if it would be the slightest accommodation. This pantomime 
of actual life began with beggars clothed in rags. But the genie of real 
estate speculation touched them with his wand, and lo! the tatters were 
gone, and they stood clothed in purple, adorned with jewels, and weighed 
down with gold. Young men who never before owned fifty dollars at once, 
a few weeks after reaching Kansas possessed full pockets, with town shares 
by the score; and talked of thousands as if they had been rocked in golden 
cradles and fed with the famous Miss Kilmansegg's golden spoon. On a 
smaller scale was repeated the story of that Minnesota wood-sawyer who 
accumulated half a million in half a year. 

On paper, all these towns were magnificent. Their superbly lithographed 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 93 

maps adorned the wa^ls of every place of resort. The stranger studying one 
of these, fancied the New Babylon surpassed only by its namesake of old. 
Its great parks, opera-houses, churches, universities, railway depots and 
steamboat landings made New York and St. Louis insignificant in compari 
son. But if the newcomer had the unusual wisdom to visit the prophetic 
city before purchasing lots, he learned the difference between fact and 
fancy. The town might be composed of twenty buildings; or it might not 
contain a single human habitation. In most cases, however, he would find 
one or two rough cabins, with perhaps a tent and an Indian canoe on the 
river in front of the "levee." Anything was marketable. Shares in interior 
towns of one or two shanties, sold readily for a hundred dollars. Wags 
proposed an act of Congress reserving some land for farming purposes 
before the whole Territory should be divided into city lots. Towns enough 
were started for a State containing four millions of people. 

It was not a swindle, but a mania. The speculators were quite as insane 
as the rest, "Themselves deceiving and themselves deceived. 3 ' Any one of 
them could have turned his property into cash at enormous profits. But 
all thought the inflation would continue; and I do not remember a single 
persons who sold out, except to make new investments. Much eastern 
capital was sunk in these paper cities. When the collapse came it was like 
the crushing of an egg-shell. Again the genie waved his wand, and presto! 
the spangles and gold disappeared, and the princes of an hour were beggars 
again. The shares had no more market value than town lots in the moon. 
Cities died, inhabitants deserted, houses were torn down. 

But among the real-estate operators of the early West there were 
a few men, like General William J. Palmer, who built cities that were 
permanent. Perhaps no one had a keener eye for the scenic and com 
mercial possibilities of a site than General Palmer ; certainly no one 
was more far-sighted in mapping out the future development of terri 
tory, and none excelled him in ability to pull the wires of diplomacy 
and business intrigue. Building his Denver and Rio Grande Railway 
without state or Federal aid, he had to depend for his profits on intelli 
gent and far-sighted exploitation of all its possibilities, and he achieved 
this with noteworthy success. To him town-building and business ma 
neuvering and railroad construction were all parts of a game in which 
skill and shrewdness received high stakes as their reward. The love 
of manipulation was in his blood. At the tender age of 17 he wrote 
as follows to a young friend of an elaborate scheme he had invented 
to procure the autographs of distinguished persons, and this project 
was a presage of his later activities in business : 



94 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

I got them not by merely writing to them and requesting their auto 
graphs. A little chicanery was necessary. I doubt if a written request for 
their signatures would bring them. The modus-operandi was as follows 
Taking advantage of that inherent quality in the souls of our great states 
men, Ambition, and being aware of that love of distinction and that desire 
for office which characterizes all our politicians, myself and another inter 
esting juvenile formed ourselves into a society for the diffusion and per 
fection of the intricate science of wire-pulling. This much being premised, 
what follows is plain. At a meeting of the members of the Sewardambian 
Society of Philada. for the promotion of the political and much to be 
lauded art of wire-pulling, Hon. Wm. H. Seward was unanimously elected 
an honorary member of the same with the privilege of participating in the 
discussions, and with all other privileges guaranteed to active members. In 
a few minutes a letter is dropt in the P. O., that goes post haste to Wash 
ington and into the Senate chamber informing the Honorable member 
from N. York, as he sits at his congressional desk, of his election to such a 
desirable post. The next mail brings with it a franked letter to Wm. J. 
Palmer, corresponding Secretary of the Sewardambian Mutual Improve 
ment Society of Philad. The two ingenious members constituting the 
latter corporation, chuckle over the contents that evening and laugh at 
the very easy manner in which our Representatives are gulled. But mean 
while another letter is despatched informing the Hon. Henry Clay of his 
election with but two dissenting voices to the post of Honorary member 
of the Claytonian Society of Philad. and another franked letter from the 
Disappointed aspirant for the Presidency thanks the Society for the honor 
conferred upon him and for the kind affable manner in which Mr. Wm. J. 
Palmer, the corresponding secretary, has informed him of the proceedings 
of the meeting. And the two ingenious members chuckle again as they add 
another document to their pile of literary morceaux. And so on till youVe 
caught as many as will bite. Then the Society makes a move at one of its 
stated meetings to dissolve the move is seconded the President puts it 
before the meeting with all due formality and it is unanimously adopted 
the members divide the plunder, separate, and find themselves possessed of 
a nice parcel of autograph letters from distinguished people. This is the 
way, and now you and Josiah Chapman can form yourselves into a society 
for the purpose of fillibustering or extending the Union indefinitely or for 
any other object. To be sure, the acting members would be small but the 
Honorary department would, I hope, be well filled and that would be 
sufficient. 

A mind that was capable of evolving such a plan before 17 might 
confidently be expected to be an adept at the arts of diplomacy and 
manipulation by the time it reached maturity. At 22 Palmer organized 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 95 

a series of antislavery lectures in Philadelphia and, though the meet 
ings were threatened by armed mobs of Southern sympathizers, car 
ried them through successfully. In preparation for these lectures he 
showed his grasp of the fine details of the situation and his under 
standing of how to deal with people when he wrote Clothier, "You 
must not let the Murphy protest die by inanition, but keep a sharp 
look-out on the different members of the committee as they return to 
the city and take a decided move at the earliest moment. I was antici 
pating some such difficulty in the way of carrying out the close reso 
lution of the subscribers that you mention." At about this time he 
showed his flair for the bold and unusual by suggesting that the Phila 
delphia and Cincinnati chess teams play a series of games by telegraph. 

General Palmer's genius for organization appeared further when he 
formed the Anderson Troop of Cavalry, "a picked body of young men 
of respectability selected from nearly every county of the State to be 
attached to General Anderson for the performance of any special serv 
ice required by him involving delicacy or danger." To recruit this 
corps he wrote men of influence throughout the state, asking them to 
nominate for their own county and each adjacent county "five young 
men, or any less number, aged between 18 and 30 years (the younger 
the better), of unusual intelligence and trustworthiness, endowed with 
nervous energy and courage and patriotic spirit. The men to be light, 
active, hardy and more or less accustomed to riding and the names 
to be mentioned in your list (with their addresses) in order of your 
preference, so that in case all the counties respond, the best may be 
taken from each." As a result of this plan an unusually fine body of 
cavalrymen was selected, which later came under Palmer's own 
command. 

When Palmer looked over the field in Colorado in 1870, he mapped 
out the main opportunities for immediate development that would 
bring money to investors and create profitable traffic for the Denver 
and Rio Grande. Since there was no town in the 100 miles between 
Denver and Pueblo and no apparent reason for one, the General, with 
characteristic audacity, decided to build a city some place along the 
line. Having noted the beauties of the strange red rock-formations at 
the foot of Pike's Peak the Garden of the Gods and the Manitou 
mineral springs a few miles distant, he determined on this locality 



96 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

as the site for the city of Colorado Springs, and, staking out his town- 
site on the bare prairie, he exploited all its attractions of scenery and 
climate so thoroughly that within a few years it was nationally famous 
as a resort and residence city. He saw near the Royal Gorge at Canon 
City great deposits of coal, and he determined to develop them profit 
ably on a large scale. At Pueblo there was iron and more coal, and 
he saw in his mind's eye the great industrial development that later 
became the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. 

To initiate his plans, Palmer secured, from his friends in Philadel 
phia and those of Dr. Bell's father in London and Holland who had 
subscribed to build the first 76 miles of the Denver and Rio Grande 
Railway, initial subscriptions of $300,000 to the Mountain Base In 
vestment Fund. With this as a nest-egg he set out to develop his whole 
comprehensive scheme. His first move was to organize the National 
Land and Improvement Company with the proceeds of the $300,000 
stock of the Mountain Base Investment Fund as its cash capital. The 
purpose of this company was to buy, but not to develop, property. 
It immediately purchased twenty-five tracts of land between Denver 
and Pueblo, a total of 5,445 acres, costing an average of $7.88 an acre. 
It also bought a half-interest in 9,300 acres of land at and near the 
site that Palmer had selected for his city of Colorado Springs. Lastly, 
it purchased a large tract of coal-land at Canon City, near the Grand 
Canon of the Arkansas River, and town property around Canon City, 
The route of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, of course, was 
not announced until the land company had purchased all the property 
it wanted at the appropriate locations. The company then gave the 
railroad $75,000 of its capital stock in return for the agreement of the 
railroad to put its stations on land-company property, to provide all 
necessary railroad facilities, and to relinquish to the land company 
the profitable business of making towns along the railroad line. 

To provide for the development of the coal- and iron-lands, a second 
company was now formed, the Central Colorado Improvement Com 
pany, with capital stock of $3,500,000 and bonds of $1,500,000. A total 
of $1,305,500 was subscribed to the stock and bonds of this company, 
$884,000 being paid in cash. The company then proceeded to purchase 
$1,040,000 worth of the 7 per cent first-mortgage bonds of the 75-mile 
section of the Denver and Rio Grande Railway that was to run through 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 97 

the property It intended to acquire, paying $561,000 in cash. It then 
paid $247,000 for 436,766 acres of land, an average of 56 cents an 
acre, including 350,000 acres of timber- and pasture-land, 83,584 acres 
of valuable farm-land, 1,800 acres of Canon City coal-land, 1,062 
acres of iron-ore land, and 320 acres in the Grand Canon of the 
Arkansas River to secure water- and power-rights. To this company 
the National Land and Improvement Company conveyed all its coal 
and iron property, being paid actual cost plus 7 per cent interest, or 
$33,000, in the bonds of the Central Colorado Company, with a bonus 
of nearly six times that amount in stock, or $187,500. 

The third concern organized was the Colorado Springs Company, 
with capital stock of $300,000, for the development of a city at the 
foot of Pike's Peak. To this company, in return for 77 per cent of its 
stock, the National Land and Improvement Company conveyed its 
interest in the property at the Colorado Springs site. The Colorado 
Springs Company acquired additional interest in the lands at the 
town-site, bringing the total of its property to some 10,000 acres, 
paying for this land and for the improvements on it with $60,000 of 
its capital stock. 

This was the capital structure of the first group of companies, all 
closely interlinked with the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, by 
which Palmer and his associates intended to develop, and receive the 
profits from, the natural resources of Colorado along the line of the 
railroad. How sound were his schemes we can see by observing 
the steady growth and profits of the various corporations through the 
years. Through the varying vicissitudes of "hard times" in 1873, in 
vasion of grasshoppers and trade exhaustion in 1877, collapse of 
Colorado's main support, silver, in 1893, the National Land and Im 
provement Company and the Colorado Springs Company went steadily 
ahead, sometimes paying as much as 20 and 30 per cent dividends and 
averaging about 7 per cent up to 1908. They also largely increased the 
value of their investments and fostered various subsidiary developments. 
How much Palmer and the other insiders indirectly got out of the opera 
tion of these concerns, it is impossible to say, but certainly the ordinary 
stockholders had nothing to complain of, for they received a steady 
return on their investments and realized a heavy increment in the 
value of their properties over a period of years. 



98 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

To a man as sensitive to natural beauty and as much a lover of 
the outdoors as General Palmer, the country at the foot of Pike's 
Peak had deep appeal ; so it is not strange that he decided to build 
a city at what is now Colorado Springs. He had always been fascinated 
by mountains; the mountains of Pennsylvania were the first love 
of his youth, before he had seen the Rockies. On a Sunday morning 
in 1859 he had written from Altoona, Pennsylvania: 

If the Reverend War Horse, Chambers, who preaches here to-day, would 
mount a racer, and lead his congregation, big and little, from the little 
Presbyterian Altoona Church up the rugged road, inadmissible for car 
riages, to Wapsunnonnack and from that solid pulpit point out to them 
the sublime scene before them, I think they would be more impressed with 
the insignificance of man and the greatness of God, than ever they could 
be, if Calvinism were steam-hammered into them diurnally for a life-time. 

Man has to go to the mountains for health, and he must go there like 
wise, if he would get a true insight into things. There is a refraction in the 
atmosphere of cities and low lands like that the traveller meets with on the 
desert or in the equatorial seas, when a long coast line or a city with 
steeples and turrets loom out of the horizon to vanish the next day into 
vapor. Mankind as a general thing cannot see through brick walls. To be 
sure I have gazed myself through an instrument hawked about our Philada. 
streets by an individual whose conversational powers were tolerably de 
veloped the object of which was to enable one to see through a brick. But 
the majority of minds are not furnished with cameras, and it were better 
to take the brick away and look straight and clear. This they can do in 
the mountains. 

And again, the same year, he wrote: 

Come up to Cresson, where health and strength are wafted from the 
swaying boughs of the pine trees, and well-up in the transparent springs of 
pure water. All the children on the Allegheny Mountains are Venuses and 
Adonises in my rides up and down the side of it I see faces which no 
painter would hesitate to transmit to his canvas in connection with the 
finest scenery of Allegrippus or Kittanning. What is this due to what but 
the fresh, invigorating mountain air in which they roam about hatless and 
bonnetless, and the unsurpassable water? 

In the shadow of Pike's Peak, therefore, at an altitude of 6,500 
feet, 'Where the gently rolling plains, changing from delicate green 
to brown with the seasons, rise up to the foot of the gigantic Rockies, 
he planted his city. Here there was no especially favored farming-coun- 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 99 

try, though the soil could be tilled fairly well, no mines of any con 
sequence, no prospect of any great population, no commercial reason 
for building a city except that there was a pass over the mountains 
into the South Park mining-country over which considerable traffic 
might be expected to flow. But Palmer felt that the superb, rugged 
mountain-peaks, the pure water, the mineral springs, and a climate 
which was cool in summer, exhilarating, sunny, and free from heavy 
snows in winter, would be sufficient attraction to build Colorado 
Springs into a city of homes and a pleasure- and health-resort. On his 
first visit to the Manitou mineral springs and the Garden of the 
Gods he had written in his diary, "I am sure that there will be a 
famous summer resort here soon after the railroad reaches Denver." 
Later, in 1869, when he was traveling in advance of his Kansas Pacific 
railroad-building party, accompanied by Cyrus W. Field and Nathan 
C. Meeker, agricultural editor of the New York Tribune, who later 
founded the town of Greeley, he took them to this favorite spot, and of 
their visit he wrote, "The whole party was in the finest possible humor. 
Pikes Peak never looked grander, and the Garden of the Gods fasci 
nated my companions of the eastern slope so that they bubbled all over 
with enthusiasm resembling the soda Springs whence we drank great 
quaffs, as Dr. Bell and I had done only a month before." 

Of the benefits promised by his scheme of building Colorado Springs 
and other towns along the line of the railroad, General Palmer de 
clared that many of the first drawbacks to immigration might be 
counteracted by the formation of land companies with capital enough 
to construct irrigation ditches, lay out farms and towns, plant trees, 
aid the building of hotels and dwellings, while selling tracts and 
lots to arriving colonists on small annual payments distributed over 
several years. By such a system, he felt, the colonization of the coun 
try could be greatly stimulated, the railroad earnings increased, and 
"the work of twenty years to be concentrated into ten." 

As soon as the money for the Denver and Rio Grande was assured, 
therefore, everything was ripe to organize. On June 26, 1871, in Den 
ver, the Colorado Springs Company held its first meeting, elected 
officers, authorized the construction of roads, bridges, and a hotel, 
and on the next day the whole party, with Colonel Greenwood, the 
chief engineer of the railroad, started from Denver to lay out the 



100 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

new town, appraise the lots, and begin business. The company at 
once subdivided part of its property into 616 residence and 480 busi 
ness lots and put the remaining acreage into farm and garden tracts 
of from 4 to 40 acres. Residence lots sold for $100, business lots for 
$175, outlying land for $30 an acre; and the company proposed to 
subdivide other business and residence lots as needed. All the lands 
at Colorado Springs and Manitou were classified as either "white" 
or "red." The "white" lots, which constituted two-thirds of the prop 
erty, were to be sold conditionally upon satisfactory improvement by 
the purchaser within one year; the proceeds were to be used, first, 
to reimburse the company for the cost of the land (which was only 
about $16 an acre), and second, to pay the cost of laying out and 
improving the city, salaries, and other company expenses. The "red" 
lots, which were checker-boarded among the "white" lots and there 
fore received the benefit of all the surrounding private improve 
ments, were to be retained by the company and sold later, when 
they had increased in value, to provide a profit for the stockholders. 
Another company, the Fountain Colony, was organized, but not in 
corporated, to take care of such profitable parts of the town-making 
business as the parent corporation wished to turn over to it. 

The first stake was driven on July 31, 1871, and the railroad 
reached the town on October 23, By the end of the year 159 structures 
had been built and various improvements had been made, all at 
a cost of $160,000. The first move General Palmer made to insure 
the success of the colony was to employ as manager General Robert 
A. Cameron, who had occupied this position with great success at 
Greeley, Colorado, in the initial stages of the colonization project there. 
Since he intended to make Colorado Springs a residence center which 
would attract well-to-do people from all over the country, Palmer de 
creed that it should be as different as possible from the wild and woolly 
Western towns of the day. Culture and refinement were to sit as the 
twin goddesses that presided over this infant community ; there were to 
be schools, parks, colleges, art-galleries, and a public forum, but no 
saloons. Of this exclusion Palmer wrote : 

The liquor restriction had already been adopted by Mr. Meeker for his 
Greeley colony. In the early summer of 1871, while we were making 
arrangements with General Cameron and some of his confreres to interest 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES IOI 

themselves in our new enterprise, I was asked by them whether we would 
adopt a similar restriction for the proposed Fountain Colony. Having had 
some experience with the railroad towns of the day in the new West, espe 
cially those whose generally short but always lively existence punctuated 
the successive stages of advance westward by the Kansas Pacific and 
Union Pacific railroads, I answered "Yes." At Sheridan, especially, on the 
former road, where I had the privilege of a residence of some eight months 
in 1870-71, while directing the construction of the railroad to Denver, the 
most noticeable suburban feature, notwithstanding the salubrity of the 
air and the brevity of the settlement, was a fat graveyard, most of whose 
inhabitants, in the language of the icoth meridian, had died "with their 
boots on." 

So, under General Cameron, "a man in ten thousand to take charge 
of a young and feeble settlement of colonists," Colorado Springs be 
gan to build itself into "a city of beauty and refinement, a city that 
fascinates not only by the beauty of its surroundings but by its health- 
restoring climate." Six months after the railroad arrived, Cameron 
was able to report that the new city had 350 people, a passenger- 
office, freight-depot, telegraph-station, two dry-goods stores, three 
groceries, a harness-shop, two meat-markets, two livery-stables, a print 
ing-office and a newspaper, a feed and grain store, a public library 
and reading-room, a large hotel, and not half enough boarding-houses 
to accommodate those who desired to board. His advertisements in 
Eastern and English newspapers had put him in touch with 2,500 
families who were considering a move to the Far West, and he re 
plied to their letters with such information as this : Colorado Springs 
has no excess of cold in winter or heat in summer, no fogs or vapors, 
and it is protected from storms by a high wall of mountains to the 
west. Its climate is such that all varieties of nervous diseases and 
diseases of debility are greatly relieved, and asthmatics and consump 
tives in the early stages are almost certain to get welL The country 
grows good crops of corn, barley, oats, potatoes, cabbages, beets, 
onions, melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and it is expected that profits 
can be made in growing peppermint, sugar-beets, seeds, sorghum, and 
broom-corn. In no country is there such a tendency for vegetables 
to go to flower and seed; and, acting upon this hint from Mother 
Nature, it is expected that the farmers will supply the Eastern mar 
kets with seeds for finer, sounder vegetables, fruits, and flowers than 



IO2 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

they can grow elsewhere. Irrigation is being carried on, but the 
General warns that it requires skill, expense, and time. Cattle, sheep, 
wool, butter, and cheese all offer opportunities for building up profit 
able business. There are inexhaustible mines of silver and gold lying 
to the west, and within 50 miles mountains of iron, inexhaustible 
beds of coal, and water-power. 

The scenic delights of the region are painted in glowing colors. 
There is the Garden of the Gods, "fabled home and ruined castles 
of Jupiter before his historical residence in Asia and Greece," the 
ruined walls of which are still standing, reaching in some parts 317 
feet, and are the wonder and admiration of all beholders. There are 
sparkling mineral springs so highly charged with carbonic-acid gas 
and so pleasant to drink as to make everyone who has once tasted 
them long to return to these parts. The first free school for children 
has been opened by "Mrs. General Palmer," churches are being built, 
and appropriate plans laid for making the city a center of culture. 
Those who fear the wild life in the West are reassured by the com 
forting news that the region has only friendly Indians ; "the warlike 
ones are cut off from us by heavy lines of settlement." There are 
no animals that attack anyone, and no large yellow rattlesnakes. 
In fact, the native rattlers are made to seem almost like household 
pets "there are only the little prairie rattlesnakes once so common 
in Indiana and Illinois." 

In a circular of advice, those who make the trip west are advised to 

bring their family pictures and choice paintings, With good carpets, beds 
and bedding so as to have a few things looking like the old home. The 
well worn household goods will not generally pay freight. Many families sell 
their most valuable things and invest the money in land, living simply for 
a few years in their new homes. Don't come to farm without enough means 
to buy four cows, a stove and a few household goods, an ax and a few tools, 
and a few months' supplies, and own with others, if not alone, a team, a 
plow and a wagon. Families living on the cars should provide a good 
Lunch Basket to save expense. Be careful of confidence men, don't lend 
money on any security to strangers. 

The opportunities are boundless. In the Far West labor brings 
a higher price than elsewhere, while the substantiate such as beef, fuel, 
and shelter are much cheaper. And the General sounds the cheering 
note that "the social chasm between capital and labor is reduced 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 103 

here from a great gulf to a small stream. Fortunes are made so rapidly 
here that we have to respect all men, for how can we tell who is 
to be rich?" As to jobs, there are plenty of them in Colorado for 
people who really want to work. In Denver one can see any day 
orders at the employment offices for 300 men at $30 per month and 
board. "The fact is/ 7 says the new Colorado Springs newspaper, The 
Out West, "there is plenty of demand for laborers here at good wages; 
but the croakers are constitutionally opposed to heavy work and are 
only ready to accept light employment. They would take the presi 
dency of a bank, the superintendency of a railroad, or the general 
management of some institution where brains and not muscle were 
required. We suggest that these fellows put on Dolly Varden shirts, 
part their hair in the middle and try servant-galism. That pays ex 
cellent wages and the demand is vastly in excess of the supply today." 
The newspaper is happy to note that there are at least a few new 
comers who are willing to do heavy work, and calls attention to an 
advertisement reading, "Wanted Two young men want situations 
on ranchos to do general work, take care of stock, or act as herders. 
Would like to raise cattle on shares." On this the editor comments, 
"This is as rare an announcement as it is commendable. It suggests 
the fact that these young men are on the broad road which leads 
to wealth and fortune. To the young men who every year crowd 
into this city to look for situations, we say go into the country, take 
up a farm, establish a dairy, raise pigs and poultry, put in fields of 
grain. Be industrious, and independent and success is certain." 

Within a year Colorado Springs had made much progress towards 
its goal of becoming a beautiful and prosperous city. Luxurious hotels 
were drawing tourists and health-seekers to the mineral springs at 
the rate of 1,500 a month, and the town was on the way to becom 
ing what it was afterward called, "The Saratoga of the West." Broad 
streets shaded with trees had been laid out, parks and a sanatorium 
were planned, and a landscape-gardener had been engaged to beautify 
the town. "Now," said General Cameron, "we only need to solve the 
problem of colonization," and he estimates that from his correspond 
ence with 3,726 heads of families, representing 18,630 persons, at 
least 2,500 individuals should be drawn to Colorado Springs within 
two years. A writer for the New York Independent stated that the 



104 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Colorado Springs post-office now delivered 11,000 letters a month, 
that 7,000 trees had been planted and not one died, and after ex 
patiating on the climate, scenery, and growth of the community, con 
cluded, "This looks, then, like an unqualified success." 

With such a splendid array of achievement only the captious would 
utter any complaints whatever. But there are a few defects in the 
community that must be repaired. One correspondent complains that 
horses, cattle, and pigs roam at their own sweet will both day and 
night through the streets and gardens of the town, and something 
must be done about it. General Cameron promises drastic measures. 
Moreover, despite rigid prohibition, it seems that the bibulous are 
having no trouble in getting a drink. The front page of the news 
paper carries an advertisement that "New Memphis is the best stop 
ping place between Denver and Colorado Springs. Good liquor, cigars, 
Beer, Ale and Porter always on hand." And an indignant citizen 
inquires, "How comes it to pass that in a town where the sale of 
intoxicating liquors is prohibited, the citizens are liable to such a 
disgusting exhibition as took place the other evening when a drunken 
Irishman rolled along the streets ? Rumor says that it is by no means 
difficult for a man to obtain a drink in Colorado Springs. When is 
something to be done about our whiskey holes, lager beer saloons, 
and gambling hells? All this back-building hole and corner business 
is disgraceful. 7 ' 

But the city continued to grow and to prosper. When General 
Palmer's Antlers Hotel was built, it was soon famous for its luxurious 
accommodations and service, and Colorado Springs became the most 
popular objective for vacation parties in the West. Of these early 
years Palmer wrote: 

We had, of course, the inevitable fire, until which no Rocky Mountain 
town feels that it has really entered the lists for a permanent race in 
growth; the Jay Cooke panic in 1873, after which corn was 12% cents 
per bushel in Kansas and Nebraska, and potatoes here were about as 
worthless as they now are on "the Divide"; a grasshopper invasion and 
an Indian alarm the same year, when the able-bodied men of the town 
were organized under Capt. Matt France, and on October 6, 1873, marched 
to Jimmy's Camp to meet 3,000 Cheyenne who were killing cattle, because, 
as they said, "The white man has been killing our buffalo." This was the 
last Indian alarm in this neighborhood. 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 105 

Distinguished visitors came along. Among the first was Samuel 
Bowles, the able and spirited editor of the Springfield Republican; 
later on, Charles Kingsley, who helped to celebrate the third an 
niversary of the town, in the tent of Mrs. Giltner, who kept the 
shoe-shop; General Grant twice, Jefferson Davis, General Philip EL 
Sheridan, Henry Kingsley, Lord Dunraven, Asa Gray, Sir Joseph 
Hooker, the Duke of Northumberland, General Sherman, and many 
others. Some came to witness the operations of the colony and of 
the railroad of novel gage. Others were attracted by the budding 
fame of the locality for scenic interest and healthfulness. 

Meanwhile, General Palmer was attending also to the development 
of his other properties in southern Colorado. Although there was 
no place for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway to go but Pueblo 
and there never was any intention of using any other route, the 
General had succeeded in creating an air of indecision about his plans 
which kept the Pueblo people on the anxious seat. A mass-meeting 
of citizens was held in the court-house "to inaugurate a campaign 
to secure a railroad for Pueblo," and the editor of the Colorado Chief 
tain had begun his effort to interest the road in Pueblo before the 
first rails were laid at Denver. Soon afterwards agents for the Rio 
Grande appeared in the town and intimated that the route of the road 
"would be changed to include Pueblo if the county would vote bonds 
and subscribe to a liberal amount of railroad stock." As a result the 
county voted to subscribe $100,000 provided the road were com 
pleted within a year and a depot established within a mile of the 
court-house. Later $50,000 additional was voted for a branch line to 
the coal-fields of Fremont County. As the road approached Pueblo, 
the excitement grew. In 1872 the newspaper editor wrote, "The track 
layers are crossing Sutherland's ranch, twelve miles north of town, 
and the rails are said to be arriving as fast as they can be spiked 
down. A large water tank is nearly completed at Sutherland's and 
on Monday next trains will come down to that point, leaving only 
twelve miles for the stage. Verily, the gap grows smaller and beauti 
fully less." 

But General Palmer had no intention of losing any of the possible 
financial advantages that should accrue from his entry into Pueblo. 
Directly south of the town was the 48,000 acres owned by his Central 



106 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Colorado Improvement Company, and in the new community of South 
Pueblo, but still within a mile of the court-house, he placed his rail 
road station. The entire tract was then put under irrigation, divided 
into acreage, and sold on easy terms to settlers. With characteristic 
energy Palmer's development of South Pueblo went forward, and the 
newspapers soon found it necessary to report : 

Very quietly, almost imperceptibly, without any flourish at the hands of 
real estate owners or speculators, a new town has sprung into existence on 
the south side of the Arkansas, and unheralded and almost unthought of, 
is moving forward to commercial prosperity with the force and momentum 
of an avalanche. A few weeks ago the resident of Santa Fe Avenue found 
his vision obstructed only by one or two dwellings on the other side of the 
river. He now is surprised to behold roofs of dwellings and broad, well 
arranged streets, while his ears are assailed by the din and clatter of saws 

and hammers Due attention must now be given South Pueblo for it is 

not to be ignored by any mean, narrow, contracted spirit of jealousy. We 
are happy to say, however, that this spirit exists only in a few isolated 
cases. The majority of our citizens look upon South Pueblo as an integral 
part of old Pueblo, and accept the correct principle that the enterprise and 
industry which expands capital and improvements in one part of town 
tends to directly benefit the other portion, be it north, south, east, or west. 

The General's next move at Pueblo, a few years later, was the 
establishment of the Colorado Coal and Iron Company, in which he 
merged the old Central Colorado Improvement Company, the Southern 
Colorado Coal and Iron Company, and the Colorado Coal and Steel 
Works Company. This merger was completed in 1880, and from it 
grew the great Colorado Fuel and Iron Company which was so im 
portant an industrial concern that its control was later contested 
for by such powerful forces as the interests of John T. Gates, Edward 
H. Harriman, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and George J. Gould. After 
a few years General Palmer sold his interests and withdrew, but he 
had the satisfaction of seeing his original predictions justified, for 
the company he had fathered became one of the largest industrial 
organizations in the West, employing more than 6,000 men in its 
Pueblo plant and armies of workers in its coal- and iron-mines, selling 
steel rails, iron, and pipe throughout the West, and mining a million 
tons of coal a year. 

The creation of South Pueblo was typical of Palmer's operations 
in town-building on the railroad. When he was extending his road 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES I0y 

to the coal-fields, he told the people of Canon City that if they would 
vote $50,000 in bonds for the railroad and spend $3,000 in developing 
the hot springs near the town, he would build the line to a depot 
within three-quarters of a mile of McCIure's Hotel, thus making 
Canon City the coal center of Colorado. He did this, building to his 
own property. But a little later, finding the coal at El Moro of a 
superior quality, he built a line to that rival field, which so angered 
the people of Canon City that they held a public meeting and in 
vited the Santa Fe to build to their town, thus engendering the Royal 
Gorge war which was later to be a source of great anxiety and 
enormous expense to General Palmer. Another town from which Palmer 
reaped considerable profit was Durango. To carry out his purposes 
there he organized the Durango Company, which carried on real- 
estate and mining operations when the road was extended to that 
city in the mountains of southern Colorado. Dr. W. A. Bell, who 
had been an officer of the Colorado Coal and Iron Company and 
numerous other Palmer enterprises, presided over the destinies of 
the Durango Company and became the town's first citizen and one 
of the outstanding men in the State of Colorado. 

Palmer's method of financing his railroad-building and community 
development is typified by the entry of the Denver and Rio Grande 
into Canon City. Since the Colorado Coal and Iron Company had many 
coal- and ore-lands in the vicinity of Canon City which it wished to 
develop, he induced the company to raise most of the money needed to 
build the road to Canon City, taking in exchange therefor the stock 
of the railroad. In a similar fashion others of his companies bought up 
the coal- and iron-lands around Trinidad, Durango, Huerfano, and 
some other points ; they then turned over one-half of their interests to 
the railroad, and from these properties the funds were raised with 
which the railroad was built. Palmer further tied all his interests to 
gether by reciprocal agreements which were beneficial to all the parties 
concerned. He got the men who were interested in the coal properties at 
Trinidad and Canon City to see the advantages to them of building the 
iron and steel works at Pueblo and so faised most of the $2,500,000 
needed to start that tremendous industrial enterprise. He then assured 
the railroad and the iron company a profitable business by arranging 
contracts between them which granted favors in the matter of freight- 



108 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

rates to the Colorado Coal and Iron Company and allowed no other 
concern to sell coal in the booming city of Leadville. Thus, even pre 
vious to 1880, his organization typified the same sort of combination 
of financial interests that was developed in later years on a larger scale 
by the heads of the great industrial trusts of the country. In the use 
of these methods for developing the resources of the new state, General 
Palmer had the people with him for the most part, for the opinion 
seemed to be general that Colorado needed more big monopolies to 
raise more money from outside the state to develop more industries. 
There was then no fear of big business in Colorado. 

As fast as new coal-, iron-, silver-, and gold-mining areas were 
opened up in Colorado, General Palmer extended the Denver and Rio 
Grande Railway system, building additional branches every year until 
he had a network of lines running westward into the mountains from 
his base line on the eastern slope. In 1 88 1 he began making his narrow- 
gage road standard-gage, and soon the two original rails were paral 
leled by a third on all the important sections of the road. In 1882 he 
began the construction of the Rio Grande Western from Denver to 
Salt Lake. In 1883 he resigned the presidency of the Denver and Rio 
Grande, and later he disposed of his stock to the Gould interests, which 
planned to extend the system to San Francisco by building the Western 
Pacific over a route which Palmer had already surveyed. Meanwhile, 
the developments he had expected to follow the building of his railroad 
in Colorado went steadily forward, his companies were successful, and 
his special pride, the town of Colorado Springs, prospered and waxed 
fat. As his private fortune increased, he gave generously but unosten 
tatiously to a large variety of worthy enterprises, and it was said that 
his private charities were extraordinarily large although they remained 
forever a closed book. To the city of Colorado Springs he gave parks, 
and lakes, and 85 miles of boulevards, mountain roadways, and trails 
costing $700,000. He provided money and lands in the heart of the 
city for Colorado College, which the Congregational Church took under 
its auspices and to which it sent as first president a New Englander 
who bore the scholarly name of Jonathan Edwards. He gave the land 
for Cragmor Sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis at Austin 
Bluffs, on the outskirts of the city. And he left no stone unturned to 
make Colorado Springs one of the most attractive places for homes in 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES 109 

the West. At his death, in 1909, it was conservatively estimated that he 
had given away $4,000,000, or nearly one-half of his entire estate. 

But it was at "Glen Eyrie' 7 that the General's taste and character 
found their fullest expression. When he first began his railroad explora 
tions in Colorado, he had written in his diary, "I somehow fancy that 
an exploration of the dancing little tributaries of the Monument or the 
Fountain might disclose somewhere near where they come leaping with 
delight from the cavernous wall of the Rocky Mountains, some charm 
ing spot where one perhaps might make his future home." That spot 
was "Glen Eyrie," back of the Garden of the Gods in its own narrow, 
wooded canon surrounded by strange red-sandstone formations. Here 
the General took up 160 acres of land under the Homestead Act, and 
here he built his castle, where he loved to receive his guests at garden 
fetes, "tall and soldierly, clothed in immaculate linen, wearing a broad 
western hat, surrounded by his three pretty daughters." And the house 
was indeed a castle, with its greystone towers which might have graced 
the countryside of old England. It had great halls, paneled in beautiful 
woods, and a grand library housed in a separate wing; it was filled 
with rare paintings and furniture collected from all over the world; 
and it was surrounded by beautiful gardens which were likened to a 
poem in green, gold, and scarlet. Palmer entertained lavishly and con 
stantly, both for his Colorado friends and for visitors from afar. One 
of the parties to which he must have keenly enjoyed playing host was 
that of the directors of the Kansas Pacific Railway, who came in 1874 
and were shown how Palmer had developed the railroad and the 
territory which might have been theirs had they taken his advice a 
few years previously. 

As to the General's princely habits of living, we need only refer to 
Hamlin Garland's description of one of his camping parties north of 
Sierra Blanca, where Palmer owned 700,000 acres of mountain and 
forest-land : * 

In a lovely grove on the bank of a rushing glorious stream, we found the 
Lord of this Desmesne and his three daughters encamped, attended by a 
platoon of cooks, valets, maids and hostlers. . . . 

Our luncheon, which contained five courses, came on with the plenitude 

* Hamlin Garland, A Daughter of the Middle Border. Quoted by permission of 
the publishers, the Macmillan Company. 



HO THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and precision of a meal at Glen Eyrie. The rusticity of the function was 
altogether confined to the benches on which we sat and the tables from 

which we ate the butlering was for the most part urban For ten days 

we lived the most idyllic yet luxurious life beside that singing stream. We 
rode the trails, we gathered wild flowers, sometimes of an afternoon we 
visited the ranches or mining towns round about, feasting at night on 
turtle soup, and steak and mushrooms, drinking champagne out of tin cups 
with reckless disregard of camp traditions, utterly without care or responsi 
bility in truth we were all under military orders! 

The General was a soldier even in his recreations. Each day's program 
was laid out in "orders 77 issued in due form by the head of the expedition 
and these arrangements held! No one thought of changing them. Our 
duty was to obey and to enjoy 

For four weeks we lived this incredible life of mingled luxury and 
mountaineering, attended by troops of servants and squadrons of horses, 
threading the high forests, exploring deep mines, crossing Alpine passes, 
and feasting on the borders of icy lakes always with the faithful 
"Nomad," the General's private Pullman car, waiting in the offing ready in 
case of accident. 

The General on his horse was a familiar figure in Colorado Springs. 
At noon every day for years he rode into the town, and one of those 
who waited to see him was Jim, an old gray wolf who was chained to 
the hitching-bar in front of a livery-barn on Cascade Avenue. The 
General always brought him two lumps of sugar, and this treat was so 
welcome that Jim would sight the horseman blocks away and begin 
such wild antics that the tourists would scatter in fright. Even after 
he was injured by being thrown from his horse and had to be carried 
on his expeditions in a litter, General Palmer so well overcame his 
handicap that he continued to' be the center of the large circle that 
enjoyed his hospitality, "gracious, full of fun, always fertile in thinking 
of diversions for the younger folk." When the men of the Fighting 
Fifteenth Cavalry came to Colorado Springs for their reunion as his 
guests, because he could not return to Pennsylvania, and he was carried 
up the marble stairs of his Antlers Hotel to greet them, his first con 
cern was for their comfort. It had been raining, and he was afraid some 
of them might catch cold. "Get warm dry clothing for every man," he 
ordered. "Let none of them wear damp clothes or be cold." Even as 
an invalid he was still their commander, and they were still his men. 
As one of his friends said, "His dominant characteristic was courage 



DEVELOPING TOWNS AND RESOURCES III 

which knew no defeat. Spare of figure, gentle of voice, the kindest of 
men, utterly unselfish, his face reflected the beauty of an indomitable 
spirit." And his career proves that he might have been speaking 
of himself when he wrote of Isaac Clothier that he had "a stout heart, 
inconquerable perseverance, a mind quick to expedients, and energy 
that scattered all opposition to the winds." 

That he was not an unfeeling industrialist is shown by his generosity 
to his men at the time he sold the Rio Grande Western. On this 
occasion he and George Foster Peabody divided $1,000,000 among the 
railway employees, in a day when such a procedure was almost unheard 
of. President Heber J. Grant of the Mormon Church recounts the im 
pression this story made on him : 

When I heard it I laughed and said, "Oh, that is a fairy tale." I did not 
think much more about it until ten years later, when I met Mr. Babcock, 
who was passenger agent here for the company at the time this was sup 
posed to have happened. I met him in front of the Zion's Savings Bank, 
and I said, "Hold on, Mr. Babcock, I want to tell you a fairy tale that I 
heard about Mr. Palmer," and I told him this story. He laughed and said, 
"Grant, there is no fairy tale about that; I received a fraction over $25,000 
of that $1,000,000 myself." I understand that there was many a section 
hand and many a man that had been with Mr. Palmer in the grading of 
the Road that got as much as $500. 

Although General Palmer carried out his plans for giving Colorado a 
network of railroads that should tap its every resource, and gave his 
system a western outlet at Salt Lake, he was not able to complete his 
design for extending his line to the south. He originally intended to 
carry the Denver and Rio Grande through El Paso to Mexico City. 
The southern extension to Texas was never built, but General Palmer 
obtained concessions from President Porfirio Diaz of Mexico and built 
the Mexican National Railway from Laredo, Texas, to the City of 
Mexico. This accomplishment rounded out his railroad-building career, 
which had begun with the Kansas Pacific, had included the compre 
hensive surveys of the southern transcontinental routes to California, 
the completion of the Denver Pacific, and the building of the Denver 
and Rio Grande. 

In appreciation of General Palmer's life and accomplishments George 
Foster Peabody, one of his closest associates, in 1929 caused to be 
struck a handsome bronze memorial bas-relief. It is characteristic of 



112 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

General Palmer, showing him sitting with his riding-crop in his hands 
and his beloved mountains towering in the background. These plaques 
are now placed in the Union Stations at Denver and Salt Lake City, 
the Colonia Station in Mexico City, and in Colorado College at Colo 
rado Springs and Hampton Institute in Virginia, educational institu 
tions to which he made generous gifts. Fittingly memorializing one of 
the greatest railroad- and city-builders of the West, these beautiful 
tablets bear this inscription : 

WILLIAM JACKSON PALMER 
1836-1909 

Union Cavalry General, pioneer railroad builder, 
prophet of Colorado's greatness. He mapped the routes 
of three transcontinental railways, supervised the build 
ing of the first road to Denver, organized and constructed 
the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, stimulated the 
State's industries, cherished its beauties, founded Colo 
rado Springs, fostered Colorado College, and served our 
Sister Republic of Mexico with sympathy and wisdom in 
developing its national railways. 




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CHAPTER VI 

RECLAIMING THE DESERT 

GENERAL PALMER, the experienced man of the world, saw 
the scenic and industrial possibilities of his part of the West, 
and his vision took form in two outstanding community de 
velopments. He stamped the impress of his personality on his city of 
Colorado Springs, and it became, even as he predicted, a Mecca for 
tourists, a haven for health-seekers, and a favored center for the homes 
of the well-to-do. Few industries of any great importance have darkened 
its skies, for General Palmer never intended it to be a commercial 
center. Even to-day it retains something of that air of theatrical un 
reality and aloofness from the raw West which made it too refined 
for the taste of early Coloradoans; they dubbed it "little London/' 
thus admitting, in a phrase, how completely it was the child of Palmer's 
imagination. Having paid his tribute to beauty and charm at Colorado 
Springs, the General, with characteristic versatility and with no less 
success, turned his attention to the virtues of smoke and grime, and 
to the south, at Pueblo, he brought to fruition his dreams of industry 
in a community which has since become the largest coal and steel 
center west of the Mississippi. 

But the thoughts of other men of power and action, turning in 
different directions, left their impress on the West in other ways. As 
the railway pushed westward, many men who had grown up on 
Eastern farms began to dream vast schemes for peopling the farm 
lands and making the desert blossom as the rose. It took courage and 
imagination to make plans for such developments, for on all the maps 
in the days before the railroads came, the whole country between the 
Rockies and the Missouri was labeled with the forbidding caption, 
"Great American Desert." To the casual travelers it had always ap 
peared that these immense areas of arid land, sage-brush-dotted or 
covered with bunch-grass, could never grow any crops of value, could 



114 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

at best furnish nothing more than a range for cattle. And it was not 
until the gold-mines were opened up around Denver in 1858, creating 
a heavy demand for farm-products, that men began to try to plant 
crops in the plains at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Only when 
their pioneer efforts proved to be successful did people begin to think 
that perhaps it would not be impossible to reclaim the Great American 
Desert on a large scale. The chief agricultural experimenters had pre 
viously been the Mormons in Utah, who had turned their desert at 
Salt Lake into fruitful fields. So successful was this project of the 
Latter-Day Saints that Brigham Young pointed out to them in no 
uncertain terms the folly of migrating to California, seeking the un 
certain profits of digging gold: "If you elders of Israel want to go to 
the gold mines, go and be damned. I would not give a picayune 
to keep you from damnation." As a result of this imprecation most of 
the Saints stayed at home and made sure of a safe and steady income 
from selling food and hay to those adventurous Gentiles who passed 
by Salt Lake in their wagon-trains on their way to the gold-fields. 

Those first farming enterprises near Salt Lake City and Denver were 
the harbingers of a new day for the waste places of the West, when 
even the most forbidding-looking lands were to yield to the arts of the 
farmer some of the valley lands by the ordinary methods used in the 
East, some of the more arid districts by the intensive cultivation of 
dry farming, and the most arid of all by the use of irrigation. In time, 
even the burning deserts of Arizona and southern California, where 
nothing could survive but the cactus, were to become as fertile as the 
valley of the Nile. But when the railroads first reached the Rockies, 
these developments were far in the future ; little was known of irriga 
tion ; all Western farming was an experiment and an adventure. With 
the coming of the railroads, however, millions of acres of farm-lands 
were opened up, and the Eastern markets were made easily available 
to the remote districts of the West. And many hardy and imaginative 
spirits were willing to try their hands at turning the new country into 
an agricultural paradise. 

The Union Pacific, the Kansas Pacific, and, finally, the Denver 
Pacific the road which we shall see the people of Denver building to 
Cheyenne, Wyoming, when the Union Pacific left Denver off its main 
line had been granted alternate sections of land for 20 miles on both 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 115 

sides of their rights of way. These railroads were naturally the most 
active agencies in developing the agricultural resources of the new 
country at the base of the Rockies. They advertised their land, told 
tall tales of its marvelous productivity, sold it cheap, and offered low 
rates for passengers who wished to come west to buy farms. As a 
result of these activities numerous groups were organized in the East 
with the purpose of emigrating to the West, buying large tracts of 
land, and establishing agricultural colonies. Among the colonizing enter 
prises that laid their plans to settle in Colorado were the Central 
Kentucky Emigration Society, the Illinois Colony, the Wyandotte 
Kansas Colony, the German Colonization Company of Chicago, the 
Tennessee Colony, the St. Louis Western Colony, and the Chicago- 
Colorado Colony, this last under the leadership of the famous Unitarian 
clergyman Robert Collyer. Most of these groups dealt with the National 
Land Company of New York, which was the selling agent for the lands 
of the Denver Pacific and Kansas Pacific railways, and whose agent, 
William N. Byers of Denver, fervently sang of the glories of Colorado 
farming in the promotional magazine Star of Empire. 

Not all these hopeful groups of would-be emigrants actually reached 
the promised land, and some of those who did form colonies saw them 
perish from incompetent leadership. But at least one of these early 
ventures was built strongly enough to withstand the disintegrating 
effects of hardship, dissension, and a reluctant soil. This colony, which 
became a model for the development of farm communities and irriga 
tion projects throughout the West, was the product of the leadership 
of Nathan Cook Meeker, agricultural editor of the New York Tribune, 
who named it after his famous editor-in-chief, Horace Greeley. And 
the story of Meeker and his colony of Greeley, Colorado, typifies the 
struggle, the disappointment, the refusal to bow before discouragement 
and seeming defeat, and the final success that have been the sequence 
followed by many a Western agricultural project through early diffi 
culties to healthy maturity. 

Nathan Cook Meeker was a curious combination of dreamer, en 
thusiastic theorist, social idealist, and practical, energetic builder. He 
had a clear vision of what he wanted to do in the new country ; he went 
at his work with extraordinary zeal and dogged even grim determina 
tion; he carried out his plans painstakingly and consistently. But 



Il6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

although he left a thriving town and a prosperous agricultural district 
as his monument, he never received during his lifetime the popular 
acclaim that his achievements might have been expected to bring. So 
wrapped up was he in his own ideas and his plans for putting them 
into effect that he had no time for cultivating the friendship of the 
crowd, no interest in idle conversation with his people on trifling topics 
of the day, no concern with anything but his project of making Greeley 
an ideal community. He was "too busy to dawdle, too serious to jest, 
too conscientious to flatter, too honest to deceive ; he had also a blunt, 
direct way of approaching a subject or a man which tended, sadly 
enough, to repel strangers, to embitter foes, and too often to provoke 
the best of friends." This was the man whose able and determined 
leadership was responsible for the success of the farm community and 
pioneer irrigation project of Greeley, Colorado. 

For many years before the Greeley project was actually undertaken, 
Meeker had cherished the idea of building such a community. His 
reading had brought him into contact with the ideas of Frangois 
Fourier, the French socialist, who advocated the building of communi 
ties in cooperative phalanxes; and when Meeker heard that such a 
phalanx was being formed at Warren, Ohio, he and his young wife 
joined it. And there, in the three years before the community finally 
broke up because of bad management and ague, he says, "I learned 
how much cooperation people would bear." 

Previous to this time Meeker had made his living entirely through 
writing, except for brief intervals of teaching school. As a boy he left 
Euclid, near Cleveland, Ohio, to journey to New Orleans, mostly on 
foot, where he got his first job as a cub reporter on the Picayune. 
Two years later he went to New York and attracted the attention of 
Nathaniel Parker Willis, of the New York Mirror, for whom he wrote 
poems and light verse. Although these were popular enough to be 
copied by other newspapers, they brought little money to Meeker's 
pocket ; and, indeed, so meager were the financial returns that he gave 
up poetry in disgust, and in later years he always regarded with 
abhorrence those amateur practitioners of the art who hopefully brought 
their verse to be printed in his newspaper. He said that the only good 
turn his poetry ever did him was when he fell downstairs on a Mis 
sissippi steamboat and saved himself a broken neck by landing on his 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 117 

top-hat, which was stuffed with the manuscripts of his poetic master 
pieces. 

After the Warren phalanx broke up, even as did its famous counter 
part at Brook Farm, Massachusetts, Meeker moved to Hiram, Ohio, 
where he was a neighbor of James A. Garfield, then leading the 
Campbellite sect in establishing Hiram College. Here he kept a store 
for a while and in his spare moments wrote a book describing the 
Adventures of Captain Armstrong, who was wrecked in the South Seas 
and taught the natives all the arts and sciences of civilization even 
to the building of steam-engines with none of its vices. There was a 
Mormon elder in the town who used to tell Garfield and Meeker and 
the others wonderful stories of the Rocky Mountains and of the ideal 
city built there by the Latter-Day Saints and presided over by Brigham 
Young. These stories took a powerful hold on Meeker's imagination, 
and he would take his little daughter Rozine on his knee, call her his 
"Rocky Mountain girl," and declare that he would some day establish 
an ideal community out there in the new country far removed from 
the noise and frivolities of society. 

When the panic of 1857 nearly ruined him, Meeker abandoned his 
store at Hiram and opened up another at Dongola, Illinois, also operat 
ing a small fruit-farm there. But, as usual, he devoted his spare mo 
ments to writing this time for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, through 
which he became a friend of Artemus Ward. When the Civil War broke 
out, he and his family suffered great indignities from their neighbors 
in this southern Illinois community, for most of them were secessionists, 
and Meeker was an ardent Union man. Some of his writings at this 
time attracted the attention of Horace Greeley, who telegraphed his 
representative at Cairo, "Meeker is the man we want" ; and thus he 
became war correspondent for the New York Tribune at General 
Grant's headquarters. 

At the close of the war, when he became agricultural editor of the 
Tribune, Meeker entered upon that phase of his career which was to 
culminate in the building of the town of Greeley. In this newspaper 
of nation-wide circulation his advice and comments on agriculture were 
read by farmers everywhere, and he became more or less of an authority 
on matters that concerned them. Meanwhile, he wrote another book, 
Life in the West, and a series of articles about the Oneida Community 



rl g THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of northern New York which attracted much attention. In the autumn 
of 1869 he started on a tour of the Far West, writing his impressions 
as he went, intending to finish his journey in Utah, there to write about 
the Mormon colony in the same manner as he had treated the Oneida 
Community. A snow blockade on the Union Pacific held him up at 
Cheyenne, however, so he never reached the Mormon capital. But on 
the trip he joined a party containing Cyrus W. Field of New York, 
Colonel James Archer of St. Louis, and General William J. Palmer, and 
saw Pueblo, the Pike's Peak region, Denver, and the Gregory Diggings 
and mines at Central City. 

Although Meeker had written about life in the West before, the West 
he knew was no farther toward the Pacific than Illinois. Now he had a 
chance to see the real thing. In a letter to the Tribune he described his 
impressions of the frontier town of Sheridan, Kansas : 

Sheridan is at present the most remarkable place in America, or in the 
world; it's what Cheyenne was a few years ago, the terminus of the road 
where legitimate business centers, and where the most reckless men and 
women gather, in order that in the absence of law and in the unprotected 
state in which property is necessarily placed, they may reap a harvest of 
plunder. The town is composed of two half streets some 300 feet apart, the 
railroad being in the center. There are large commercial houses engaged in 
the Santa Fe trade, holding heavy stocks of staple goods representing 
capital ranging from $20,000 to $500,000. Some of the stores are as much 
as 150 feet long, and wide in proportion, and I saw one where many tons 
of Mexican wool were awaiting shipment. Besides these houses there are a 
few hotels and several buildings belonging to the railroad and the rest are 
saloons and gambling establishments, more than fifty in number, all open 
and apparently doing a good business. In almost every one are women; 
fiddles and accordeons are playing, glasses jingling; and there are billiard 
and roulette tables, and other gambling devices. 

The men are able-bodied and strong; few are more than 35; the ma 
jority are less than 30 years old; their faces are flushed, their necks red 
and thick, and they speak as good English as any people in the states, 
using many common household expressions. But they have a restless, 
uncertain look and quickness of movement both strange and suspicious, 
and the more so because connected with much that is home-like and 
familiar. Of course they are well armed and ready in a moment for attack 
or defense; but I saw none who were either offensive or aggressive, though 
I have every reason to believe that they would commit murder on what 
we would call the slightest provocation, for they have been so audacious 
and bold that men of property have been obliged to resolve themselves 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 

into a vigilance committee and hang fifteen or twenty. Back of the town 
is a small graveyard where they have been buried, and only a few days 
before I arrived, one of them was hanged to the trestle-work a little out of 
town. For some time past the engineer has been in the habit of moving the 
morning train slowly over this spot in order that the passengers might see 
whether any one was hanging there by the neck. Among the aggressive 
acts of these men, it is related that, at a hotel, one asked a gentleman, 
sitting opposite, to pass the butter, and not being heard he immediately 
drew a small pistol and presented it at the head of the gentleman, with 
his finger on the trigger, saying, "Pass the butter." 

Under General Palmer's guidance the party journeyed to Denver by 
way of southern Colorado in a buckboard. On this trip Meeker had 
opportunity to note the agricultural possibilities of the state, to see 
how the few farmers lived, and to feel the need for building in this 
wild new territory a model colony such as he had long had in mind. 
Here is his picture of one ranch in the valley of the Fontaine Qui 
Bouille, below what is now Colorado Springs: 

Many of the houses were of adobe or sunburnt brick, occupied by Yankees, 
but no fences were to be seen. Having a lunch along, we stopped at an 
adobe house to warm and to eat. Two able bodied men, ragged and dirty, 
were the occupants, a smouldering fire was in the fire-place, a dirty table 
was covered with dirty dishes, and there were several large dogs. A good 
fire was built, and I swept up the hearth with a stump of a broom; one 
of the men sat on the bedside to grind us some coffee, and he hung a tea 
kettle over the fire; the other washed the dishes with a small dish cloth 
and, after squeezing it with one hand, wiped them with it. I have noticed 
that when men do housework their dish cloths are small, and that while 
cooking, they smoke a pipe. Three more men then appeared with dogs and 
guns, and sat on the beds while we ate our lunch. Some of these men were 
Irish and had served in the Confederate army, or more likely had deserted 
from it or the Union army; others were from the Northern States, but 
what they came for we did not learn. When asked why they did not 
marry they said they had wives in the states, that they were waiting till 
there was peace with the Indians, not to bring out their wives, but that 
they might get squaws. 

At Denver, Meeker found a city of 7,000 which he compared with 
the first-class cities of Ohio and Illinois : 

In many respects it resembles Chicago. The business men are as sober, as 
upright and as exemplary as in any other city, but they have a brusque 



I2O THEY BUILT THE WEST 

rapid way. Everybody is busy, and the clerks look a good deal like boys 
that have just been washed and have neglected to comb their hair. As the 
city is out on the great plains, and below the divide, rain seldom falls, and 
cultivation would be without reward were it not for the introduction of 
water from the Platte, which, being taken out of this stream, twenty-four 
miles above the city, runs along the gutters of every street, and into 
gardens, and furnishes water for grist-mills. It is intended to extend ditches 
to higher grounds south of the town, where a vast extent of country can be 
watered, and besides, a water power can be obtained with one hundred 
feet fall. 

This was Meeker's first view of a Western irrigation project, and 
though it was not on a very large scale, it offered him first-hand contact 
with irrigation such as he wished to use in his own farm community. 
He had seen enough on this trip to convince him that the formation 
of an agricultural colony somewhere on the plains east of the Rockies 
was the thing he most desired to do, and when he returned to New 
York, he broached the matter to his wife. Since she had already 
pioneered in two communities, she was not particularly enthusiastic 
over the prospect of enduring the privations of frontier life in a third, 
especially as the family was comfortably settled in a New York suburb. 
Nevertheless Meeker went forward with his plan. 

It was in the luxurious setting of Delmonico's in New York City 
that Meeker first mentioned his pioneering project to Horace Greeley. 
He had already spoken of it to John Russell Young, editor of the New 
York Standard, who had in turn talked of it to Mr. Greeley. After a 
press dinner at the famous New York restaurant, when the crowd was 
breaking up and the air was thick with the smoke of cigars, Greeley 
called Meeker to him to discuss the plan. Since he himself had made a 
trip to Colorado several years previously, particularly to inspect and 
report on the state of affairs in the gold-mines at Denver and Central 
City, Greeley knew the country well, and the idea of an agricultural 
colony there appealed to him. "I understand you have a notion to start 
a colony to go to Colorado," he said to Meeker. "I wish you would 
take hold of it, for I think it will be a great success and if I could I 
would go myself." 

Assured of this powerful backing, Meeker spent the whole of the 
next day writing an article on the subject. Greeley asked to see it set 
up in type, kept it a week making corrections, suggested that the town 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 121 

be divided into blocks of 10 acres each, and then wrote an editorial 
to accompany it. It was published on the i4th of December, 1869, in 
the daily Tribune, and later in the weekly and semi-weekly editions ; 
and although Meeker thought Greeley overoptimistic when he predicted 
that there would be 1,000 replies, over 3,000 were actually received. 

Two days before Christmas, Room 24 of the Cooper Institute was 
crowded with people who had responded to Meeker's call for founding 
a colony in the West. Preceding the meeting, the offices and stairs and 
hallways of the New York Tribune were thronged with those who 
wanted to discuss the project with Meeker. Among them was a large 
tall man with a broad-brimmed hat who buttonholed him as he went 
into his office and told him that he had been in the Army, and had had 
his sight impaired, and had had losses and troubles, and had published 
a paper in Indiana, and would like to go in the colony. This man was 
General Robert A. Cameron, who, with Meeker and H. T. West, later 
completed the triumvirate that ruled the destinies of Greeley, Colorado, 
and who also aided General Palmer in establishing the town of 
Colorado Springs. 

At the Cooper Institute meeting, plans were discussed for a colony 
providing a central town with tracts of farm-land adjoining. The name 
of Union Colony was selected, but the probable location was not made 
public; Meeker was elected president, Cameron, vice-president, and 
Greeley, treasurer. Each member was to pay $5 for current expenses 
and $150 for the land to be bought. Fifty-five paid their first fee imme 
diately, great enthusiasm prevailed, and shortly thereafter the locating 
committee, composed of Meeker, Cameron, a Mr. Fisk of Toledo, and 
H. T. West of Chicago, set out for the Rockies. 

By the Union Pacific Railway the committee went to Cheyenne, and 
from there by the Denver Pacific to Evans, the point that railroad 
had reached on its way to connect the Union Pacific main line with 
Denver. Thence they went by stage to Denver and, with ex-Governor 
Alexander Cameron Hunt, to the Pike's Peak district which Meeker 
had already visited with General Palmer. Not finding any sufficient 
tract of irrigable land to the south, they investigated the country be 
tween Denver and Cheyenne, and also Evanston, Wyoming, and the 
Bear River country near Ogden, Utah, after which they returned to 
New York. No announcement was made of their decision, but on 



122 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

April 6, 1870, William N. Byers of the National Land Company wrote 
General Palmer, who was then interested in building the Denver Pacific 
Railroad from Denver to Cheyenne, that he had secured the location 
of the Meeker colony on Denver Pacific land. On the i2th a circular 
was issued in New York, signed by Meeker's son, Ralph, as secre 
tary, stating that "After many difficulties the Locating Committee has 
succeeded in purchasing 70,000 acres of railroad and government land 
on the Cache la Poudre, half way between Denver and Cheyenne." 
As a matter of fact, 9,324 acres were purchased from the railroad, 2,592 
acres from private interests, including David H. Moffat, trustee of the 
Denver Land Company, and the remaining 60,000 acres was govern 
ment land which was filed upon in the names of fictitious individuals 
with payment of the location fees. These homestead claims could have 
been "jumped" by outsiders at any time, but they never were, because 
they could have been of little value without irrigation and the colony 
controlled the water-supply, the use of which it granted only to its own 
members. 

The cost of the land was $60,000, the money being furnished by the 
$155 subscriptions of the members of the colony, who were each per 
mitted to select a town lot at from $25 to $50, 80 acres of government 
land by paying $75 for water-rights, and colony land varying from 
5 to 40 acres according to the distance from the city. All lands were 
to be supplied with water and were subject to no assessment except to 
keep ditches in repair. The town was divided into business and resi 
dence lots, 277 lots being reserved for schools and churches, a lo-acre 
plaza was laid out at the center of the town, land was set aside for a 
park, and the construction of irrigation ditches was begun immediately. 
Final deeds to property were granted only when it had been improved 
by the purchaser, none but members were at first permitted to buy 
land, and each deed contained a clause prohibiting the sale of liquor, 
the prohibition feature being modeled on that of Evanston, Illinois, 
named after ex-Governor John Evans of Colorado, and that of Vineland, 
New Jersey. 

In April, 1870, more than 400 would-be colonists had signed the rolls 
and paid the initiation fee, and about 200 were actually on the ground 
at Greeley, for the town had by that time been thus named, after 
Meeker had refused to have it named after himself. This group, who 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 123 

were mostly from New York, New England, Ohio, and Indiana, did not 
in all cases find Greeley as Elysian a community as they had expected. 
They had heard much about grand scenery, trout in mountain streams, 
cold pure water, healthful climate, and cattle grazing on a thousand 
hills, but little of the aridity, the difficulties of irrigation, and the hard 
work that would have to be done to make the country habitable. 

On the ist of June, 1870, the Rocky Mountain News reported the 
population as 460, but about fifty more had returned to their homes in 
disgust. And one colonist wrote to the Milwaukee Sentinel: 

We have been at Greeley, and we speak that which we know, when we 
declare that although the climate is good, the air pure, and the stars very 
bright at night, there is nothing to induce a sane man to plant himself on 
that desert. No trees are within fifty miles, except a few stunted cotton- 
woods upon the banks of the stream. The soil is alkali, and poor enough. 
The thing is a humbug. If it shall serve the purpose of cooling the brains 
of a few hot-headed reformists by showing them the impracticability of 
their theories, it will serve a good purpose, but whoso reads this article 
and goes there, cannot say he was not duly warned of the humbug. Many 
have left it, and soon its last hovel will be deserted. 

And another writer, in the Missouri Republic, declared that 

Several stern wheel shanties and a few one horse tents comprise the popu 
lation of Greeley, which is located if there be such a thing as locating a 
baker's dozen of slab shanties, as many tool chests, a great ditch, and 
twenty acres of prickly pears on a barren, sandy plain, part and parcel 
of the Great American Desert, midway between a poverty stricken ranch 
and a prairie-dog village on two sides; and a poverty-stricken ranch and a 
prairie village on t'other. It is bounded chiefly by prickly pears. The 
plucking of this choice plant from the part of their babies' corporeal frame 
to which in old times the punitive shoe was wont to be applied, gives the 
mothers of Greeley constant, if not pleasant, employment. (We would add 
par parenthesis that on that balmy May morning on which we regretfully 
bid adieu to Greeley, we left the men swearing, the women crying, and 
picking prickly pears out of parts indicated a lively, if not a soothing, 
scene to snatch one's self away from on a bright morning in beautiful 
May.) 

Because labor finds no employment; because there is no capital amongst 
the colonists ; because no crops of any description (except prickly pears) 
can be produced at Greeley for the next three years if indeed anything 
but prickly pears and prairie dogs' holes can ever be raised; because 
there is no wood, nor coal, nor lumber, nor anything else but disappointed 



124 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

men and weeping women and squalling young'uns, there, or anywhere 
about there notwithstanding these things prove nothing against the future 
magnitude of the embryo capital of Colorado. But until this happy period 
arrives, the honest President Meeker tells his colonists that they must all 
go a keeping boarders (!) but suppose that they have all gone doing so, 
though we can't quite see where the boarders are to come from, we leave 
Greeley for the present, repeating the advice to the uneasy, restless readers 
of The Republic, that if they can't stay where they are, but must go 
somewhere else, don't ever dream of such a wild and foolish thing as 
striking out for the great colony of Greeley, Colorado Territory. 

But despite the scoffing of the disappointed and the faint-hearted, 
the colonists who remained set cheerfully to work to build their new 
home. "The first night," said J. Max Clark, one of the early colonists, 
"I asked myself, who are all these people, gathered together under the 
leadership of one visionary old man, in the vain hope of building up a 
paradise in the sands of the desert? Evidently all of them cranks and 
fools, and myself pre-eminently the foolest fool in the lot." But the 
next morning the air was fresher and the soil did not look quite so 
sandy, "our spirits began to rise and we were not conscious of being 
quite the extraordinary fools we thought ourselves the day before ; and 
then the first thing we knew, we were running frantically about looking 
for lots for ourselves, and quite disgusted, too, to think we had wasted 
so much time. We got some and that settled the business ; we settled." * 

Next day Clark had his first interview with Meeker, who replied 
very curtly to his doubts as to the fertility of the sandy soil and left 
him with the conviction that the leader was an honest man who had 
the success of the colony nearer to his heart than any other object in 
the world. Meeker's two coadjutors, however, did not always create so 
favorable an impression. H. T. West, who was the business man and 
accountant of the trio, "had the air of a sharper," and General Cameron 
"looked a good deal like a seedy, cast-off, played-out, third-rate poli 
tician." But together they formed a strong group Meeker the ardent, 
idealistic, hard-working leader, Cameron the flowery, expansive pro 
moter, and West the shrewd, careful business man. 

Although Clark's wife, when she finally arrived, looked at the for 
biddingly arid landscape and cried, "Oh, why did you bring me to this 
wretched country?" he was not discouraged. Like the other colonists, 

* J. Max Clark, Colonial Days (Denver, Smith Brooks Printing Company) . 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 125 

he could conjure up in his mind's eye beautiful fields of waving grain, 
blossoming clover, and stately trees, although as yet not a furrow had 
been plowed or a tree set. But all the men who built the colony were 
living almost wholly in their imaginations ; and they worked so vigor 
ously that in a few months 400 houses had been built, real-estate prices 
had jumped from $50 to $1,000 for choice business locations, and the 
men on the street-corners were talking confidently of a city which 
would have 10,000 inhabitants in the near future. 

But once the town was built, the colonists began to realize the over 
whelming difficulties that confronted them in trying to improve the 
adjoining farm-lands by supplying them with water. Irrigation had 
seemed easy in theory, though no one in America knew much about it 
in practice; Meeker had remarked airily that "the cost of irrigation 
will be about the same as that of fencing," and had added, "A little 
water goes a great deal farther than people generally suppose. In 
California they use much more than is necessary." The colonists set 
the cost of the four ditches deemed necessary to bring the water several 
miles from the Cache la Poudre River to irrigate 60,000 acres at $20,000 
and immediately began building the Big Ditch (officially known as 
Canal No. 2). This single canal cost $27,000 and was supposed to water 
2,000 acres, but actually it carried so little water the first year that 
nearly all the crops died. There were some 40 miles of lateral canals 
to be "wet up 77 by the big canal, and since the ditch was new, the 
ground was so dry when the water was let in that it took nearly a 
week for any of it to get to the end of the canal. In New York Meeker 
had described to his audience of would-be emigrants how the water fol 
lowed a man down the ditch like a little dog trotting at his heels, but 
the colonists found that it took a lot of coaxing to get the little dog to 
follow, and he frequently lay down in his tracks and refused to move. 

Says J.Max Clark: 

There are a number of the original Colonists left who will never forget 
the trials and tribulations of that first summer of agricultural experiment 
under canal No. 2. When we had sowed our wheat and killed our best horse 
in digging the lateral down to its margin through the desert, with anxious 
expectation we watched its feeble growth day by day, after it had pushed 
its way through the ground, and nursed its sickly vitality with the attenu 
ated little stream of water that came creeping down through the mirage 
that hovered incessantly about the canal above us, until at last it withered, 



I2 6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

like a false hope, and died; then there came a hail storm that^ would have 
knocked seventeen vigorous lives out of that crop of wheat, if there had 
been any life there to destroy, and there wasn't a ghost of a chance for it 
if the hail storm had passed by on the other side; and, finally, barring the 
rich and useful experience gained that season, and employed to advantage 
in after years, that entire load of wheat might better have been sown in 
the road rather than with such profitless labor scattered upon our farms. 

It was such experiences as these that caused one irrigator to post this 
wrathful notice at the flume headgate: "Whoever is found meddling 
with this headgate will catch hell and a great deal of it." 

Yet even in this time of agricultural failure there were bold spirits 
in the town who were intent on grand schemes to make Greeley a great 
center of industry. Refusing to see that the success of the colony de 
pended on the canals, they asked that the people turn their attention 
and the colony funds to the establishment of a woolen-mill. Toward 
this project Father Meeker preserved a mild neutrality, but General 
Cameron enthusiastically addressed a public meeting and declared that 
a woolen-mill would immediately advance the prosperity of the colony. 
The farmers who had watched their crops fail from lack of water were 
indignant at the idea of spending money on anything but enlarging 
the canals, and one of them brought to the meeting a bunch of wheat 
starved to death from want of water, measuring only a foot from tip 
to root. When the General had completed his persuasive speech in 
favor of building the mill to countervail the overproduction of the 
"gross products" of the farm, J. Max Clark gained the floor and told 
the assembly 

that there was a number of us farmers out in the bluffs just then who felt 
very little concern as to what we would do with the gross product; that, on 
the other hand, we entertained serious fears that for some time to come 
the gross product might not make the bread to keep us alive. Then I 
pulled that bunch of wheat from under my coat tail, and, holding it up hi 
full view of the audience, I asked if that looked like glutting the markets 
of the world. I couldn't talk much, but I had no need to talk; that bunch 
of drouth-withered wheat did the business; it was more eloquent than a 
host of tongues, and before the meeting closed it was a conceded point that 
the factory would have to wait. 

Now the town was in a quandary. The colony funds had all been 
spent, but it was absolutely necessary that the Big Ditch be made 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 127 

bigger, or there would be an end of Greeley. The colonists were most 
of them poor when they first came, and they had by this time spent 
most of the money they brought with them. Meeker decided that the 
colony should sell its surplus lands to get the funds needed, and this 
was done; an assessment of 35 cents an acre was also levied, and 
$20,000 more was spent on the Big Ditch. In view of the original 
estimate that the total cost of all ditches would be $20,000, it is inter 
esting to note that before this one ditch had sufficient capacity to meet 
the demands made on it, no less than $112,000 was spent on its con 
struction. By the second year, the ditch was enlarged, excellent crops 
were grown, and the crisis in the history of this pioneer irrigation 
project was successfully passed. It is well that this was so, for what 
was learned about the theory and practice of irrigation at Greeley in 
those first years was of benefit to the entire West in its later agri 
cultural development. 

Irrigation was but imperfectly understood in the United States at 
that time. The Greeley Farmers' Club corresponded with others who 
had tried it in the West but could get little practical information ; even 
the Mormons who had been successfully using it for years had not 
developed any system, collected any records, or contributed anything 
to the world's scanty knowledge of the subject. After searching every 
where for help the Greeleyites finally turned to Italy, and from the 
records of the 3oo-year-old irrigation projects in that country they 
formed estimates of what canals would be required for Greeley if all 
its lands were to be properly irrigated. At the Irrigation Convention in 
Denver in 1873 J- ^ ax Clark of Greeley advanced views based on 
this research, but he was thought to be entirely too pessimistic. An 
English engineer, Frederick Stanton, declared that 25,000,000 acres of 
land could be reclaimed by irrigation in Colorado, and he suggested 
for the irrigation of 1,500,000 acres a canal 100 miles long, 12 feet wide 
and 3 feet deep. Then up rose Mr. Clark and addressed the convention 
with some feeling: 

I am a farmer. I till the earth with my own hands. I am accustomed to 
carry the mud of the waters of irrigation on my boot heels, and the brown 
dust of the desert in my hair; and when I read in the report of the pro 
ceedings of the Farmers' convention of last June, what all the ex-governors, 
judges, lawyers and politicians had to say on the subject of irrigation, it 
occurred to me that if in this meeting there should mingle in with all that 



128 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

hopeful, enthusiastic, profound, professional thought upon so important a 
subject, a little more of the thinking of the practical, plodding, calculating 
element of the farm, it might not be inappropriate or amiss in a farmers' 

movement We have seen the area of our arable land estimated all the 

way from four to ten millions of acres, when we don't believe there are 
two millions; and we have read with fear and trembling how the Hon. 
Fred Stanton, enthusiastic upon the almighty resources of our common 
country and the agricultural resources of Colorado in particular, is pro 
posing to cut a great gash in the earth, from South Platte canon to 
Kansas City, and water all the land on both sides of the ridge. 

Taking an average over the whole irrigated district of Italy, it requires 
a discharge of a cubic foot of water per second to irrigate sixty-six acres of 
land; and supposing Mr. Stanton should only propose to irrigate an insig 
nificant strip of country two miles wide the whole length of his district, 
and in round numbers say 750,000 acres, he would require a discharge of 
11,362 cubic feet of water per second during the whole irrigating season. 
The mean discharge of all our rivers north of the Divide for the irrigating 
season does not more than equal the eleven or twelve thousand cubic 
feet per second which Mr. Stanton would require for his one big ditch. 

Clark pointed out that in Italy, after hundreds of years of experiment, 
there were only 1,600,000 acres tinder irrigation; that to irrigate the 
land suggested under Stanton's ditch would require the impossible cur 
rent velocity of four miles per minute; that there was not sufficient 
water in the mountains even to fill it and he would risk the govern 
ment powder in time of war at its farther end. 

Though such a dashing of cold water on the enthusiasm of theoretical 
irrigators was not popular, it was needed, for the professional promoters 
were already laying out vast areas of land which were covered with 
ditches but for which no adequate source of water was available. The 
Greeleyites were all against such activities, including "buncombe 
speeches filled with desert rose bushes, buncombe statistics of produc 
tion that lie, and buncombe ditches on paper that can never be filled." 
The practical farmers of Greeley worked out practical methods of 
irrigation which were copied elsewhere, and they entered the hazy and 
highly controversial field of irrigation legislation, producing a law 
code which has been a landmark in the history of irrigation ever since. 
The Colorado irrigation laws developed by Greeleyites were studied 
and followed by the lawmakers of Wyoming, Nevada, and California ; 
and a commission sent from Australia to examine American irrigation 




NATHAN COOK MEEKER 
Courtesy of the Meeker Memorial Museum. 




THE MEEKER HOMESTEAD AT GREELEY 

Now the Meeker Memorial Museum. From a photograph taken in 1889. Courtesy 

of the Museum. 




THE FIRST SETTLEMENT AT GREELEY 

From a photograph taken in 1870, looking west from the railroad tracks. Courtesy 
of the Meeker Memorial Museum. 




GREELEY TO-DAY 

Practically the same view as the above, looking west on Eighth Street toward 
Lincoln Park. Courtesy of the Greeley Daily Tribune. 




A SUGAR-BEET FIELD UNDER IRRIGATION NEAR GREELEY 
Courtesy of the Greeley Daily Tribune. 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT T2Q 

legislation reported, "As the laws of Colorado are by far the most 
successful, they may be fairly allotted first place." 

While the practice of irrigation was being perfected and its code of 
laws hammered out by the more earnest spirits, the rest of the citizens 
were busily engaged in all the multifarious activities that made Greeley 
a full-fledged community. A dramatic club was formed which promptly 
obliged with "Ten Nights in a Bar-Room" ; a billiard-saloon was denied 
a license; a school and several churches were built; a lottery to build 
a library was frowned upon ; and when a whisky-saloon was opened by 
a German, the citizens one Sunday morning took the law into their 
own hands : 

Before the benediction had been pronounced, a committee was appointed 
to interview the saloon keeper. About two hundred persons gathered 
around the liquor establishment, soon after the committee arrived. The 
proprietor said that he had paid $200 for the use of the building and he 
meant to stay until the lease expired. One of the committee got possession 
of the key and locked the door. The committee finally agreed to pay the 
whiskey dealer $200 for his lease, and to cart the liquor to a place of 
safety. Many were clamorous to burn the shanty and destroy the brandy 
casks. The den was soon after discovered to be on fire. Then the committee 
made a grand rush and succeeded in extinguishing the flames, besides 
saving the rum, with the card tables, decanters and dice-boxes. While the 
members of the committee were congratulating themselves on this feat, 
the building was discovered to be on fire again, but the flames were sub 
dued only to break out again on the outside of the shanty, and this last 
conflagration entirely destroyed it. 

The town records were enlivened with the names of several famous 
people. Phineas T. Barnum was one of the early members, and so was 
a Mr. Fisk, who was a cousin of the stock-plunger, Jim Fisk of Wall 
Street. Barnum wrote Fisk to hurry up with the building he was erect 
ing and to make it as big as possible because Barnum intended to beat 
him with a bigger one when he got there which he afterwards did. 
The Hotel de Comfort, a huge dormitory-like hall, divided into one 
sleeping-room for bachelors and one for families, was the center of the 
city's life and color, where they carried on heated discussions of topics 
of the day of so radical a nature as to bring upon it the opprobrious 
title of "the Jacobin Club." There were two lyceums "eternally in 
session," from which preachers urged their flocks to stay away if they 
would save their faith ; an Army and Navy Club lured the less stable 



130 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

elements of the community, and in the conversation of the men gathered 
there "the Saints were roughly handled'' ; there were baseball teams 
and a hook-and-ladder company. A juvenile boot-black electrified the 
community by appearing on the streets and singing, "Black 'em up 
and make 'em shine. Less than a minute only a dime." Soft-voiced 
hunters, dressed in buckskin with yards of fringe, brought in antelope 
and sometimes the carcasses of wolves and wildcats. Stocky teamsters, 
who slept outdoors on the ground under their wagons in coldest weather, 
drove in cattle from Atchison. There were herders and cattlemen with 
buckskin leggings, pistols and knives, jaunty Mexican hats, and long, 
jingling spurs; some were big cattle-owners who carried $50,000 in 
their belts and drafts on Denver for millions. 

Two hundred couples joined in the Odd Fellows dance to the music 
of Smith's Quadrille Band, and of this social event "Sapho," the local 
correspondent for the Denver Tribune, somewhat tartly remarked : * 

The supper (if I may be allowed to call it by that name) was furnished 
by Judge Quids, and if any one made themselves sick by eating too 
much, I should have been happy to have had a seat at the same table, and 
if ever another ball takes place at Greeley, if my advice is worth anything, 
I should say, let the job out to some hotel, which has accommodations and 
facilities for getting up a supper. Coffee and cake is pretty good, but 

something more substantial is better Among the many fair ladies 

present, was the beautiful and gentle blonde Miss Gussie N Is, attired 
in a magnificent light silk, with point lace, sash and bow, "en pannier." 
Miss Belle S ts was charmingly dressed in white, with black silk sash, 
and necklace of pearls. Miss G was gotten up regardless of all expense, 
and was, beyond all doubt, the belle of the evening. Mrs. Harry L e 
appeared, as she invariably does, par excellent, and was dressed in an 
elegant and costly manner. Miss Laura N s was also very richly cos 
tumed in silks and diamonds. Miss Gussie P s was neatly dressed in 
white muslin, with countless flounces and ruffles. And as white seemed to 
be the reigning color, Miss F. E. also chose it and with a profusion of 
cheap jewelry looked very well. 

Finally, there was woman suffrage, and the Greeleyites learned that 
the ladies "can and will vote at a moment's notice." In the spirited 
campaign for postmaster there were 

* James F. Willard, The Union Colony at Greeley 1869-1871 (Boulder, 1918). 
Quoted by permission. 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 

flags, bells, mottoes, posters and good-looking young men, and in a short 
time the hall was packed with women and girls, all crowding up to vote 
for Gipson. Then Mr. Flower sent for bells and a fast team, and gave 
orders for the driver to corral all the women who would vote, and bring 
them to the front. The news spread like new cider, and in the course of 
two hours the scene reminded one of a political camp-meeting. Courting a 
girl on the Lower Arkansas was nothing to the way in which Gipson and 
Flower seduced the loveliness and flower of Greeley from the undarned 
stockings of their domestic hearthstones. At five o'clock the perspiration 
fairly stood on the brows of the respective candidates. The excitement 
increased, and by sundown the sleighs were flying through the streets. 
The women were getting excited, and their enthusiasm glowed like pine 
knots. One of the leading merchants rushed up the street in a two-horse 
cutter, and soon returned sitting in the laps of three ladies, while the 
horses shot through the streets to the polls. At the polls, Mr. Gipson 
escorted the fair ones up stairs to vote, while the wholesale gentleman 
drove off for more. At dark fresh horses were procured and the excite 
ment increased. At eight the polls were closed. Time was precious. Gipson 
knew of a dozen ladies up town, who must be brought at once. Marx 
rushed off for three girls on the east side, and so they came, young girls, 
servants, old ladies with silver hairs, brides, and women with young babes, 
until it seemed as though all the arguments that Brother Todd had ever 
made, were to be utterly swept away.* 

The Greeley Tribune, owned and edited by Meeker, described the 
types of people who made up the community. There are, it said, 
educated mechanics who know quite well what a nice house should be 
and are anxious to build it; farmers who are handy with tools and 
close students of irrigation ; well educated people who have learned to 
combine literary culture with everyday industry; ministers of good 
sense and with a knowledge of theology; and several politicians well 
schooled in all the arts, schemes, dodges, and devices of the fraternity. 
A majority of the married women have taught school, and 

the disagreeable condition in which they have been placed for want of 
comfortable homes has given to many a sad cast of countenance, and some 
have scarcely appeared in public. Of late, and since houses have been 
plastered and conveniences have multiplied, a change for the better in 
the appearance of the women has been apparent, and the congregation at 
church is much more elegant and cheerful than it was two months ago. 
The truth is a woman is weak unless she can have a comfortable house; 
and a man is not only weak but untidy unless he has a housekeeper. As to 

* Ibid. 



132 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

intellect, the women are fully equal to the men and they only lack drill 
and wider means of obtaining information. Many of the females are re 
markable for large perceptive and reflective powers, and these, often, are 
in excess of their vitality. 

A company of young men equal to ours cannot be found in the world. 
Most of them are educated, all are well informed. There may be a few 
who, under other circumstances, would be irregular, but the influences 
surrounding them by reason of the good conduct and gentlemanly habits 
of the many, restrain them, and they are better than they could expect 
themselves to be. This general state of good morals among us does not 
arise from fanaticism, nor from any sort of uniformity in religious belief. 
Certain papers, and persons abroad have conveyed the idea that we are a 
set of straight backed Puritans, and that men are fined locts for taking a 
chew of tobacco. If any thing of this kind exists we have failed to see it, 
and it is uncertain whether a majority belong to any church; while it is 
certain that no one church predominates. As to the use of tobacco, some 
of our reformers frequently remark that they are astonished and grieved to 
see so many use it. For the most part, our young men neither chew nor 
smoke. How many of them have made the money they brought with them, 
or how many were supplied by their friends, cannot be known, but from 
the energy they display, and the careful use they make of money, it may 
be presumed that they acquired the most they have by their own efforts. 
Generally, a young man's grip on money is slight, it relaxes unawares, and 
his hand seldom closes firmly until a female hand, displaying a plain gold 
ring, is clasped over it. Then it shuts like a vice. It will be difficult to find 
so many young men elsewhere whose handwriting is so good, who are so 
well acquainted with ancient and modern literature. 

Sometimes eight or ten can be found taking their meals in a back room 
from a table promiscuously spread with tin plates and odd pieces of 
crockery; some sit on chairs, others on benches, and not unfrequently 
they eat standing, holding a morsel of meat and bread in one hand and a 
cup of coffee in the other. You may be sure that the floor is not mopped 
every day, nor that the sheets, if sheets are used, show every night fresh 
folds made by the flat-iron. They have little cook stoves, and pots and 
pans and cupboards and dishes, and tumblers! for visitors to drink out of, 
and looking-glasses, and there is always a shelf well filled with books. 
But the table is set in a haphazard way, and when they sit down to eat 
they so place themselves as to watch some article of food cooking on the 
stove, generally slap-jacks, that they may be eaten hot. As they are indus 
trious and always have some kind of work on hand, the dishes are shoved 
away as soon as the meal is over, and when the next meal is to be pre 
pared, these dishes are to be washed, or at least scraped. Some having 
been tossed much about the world, have learned to be good cooks, and 
they have imparted their knowledge to the rest, hence, their cooking is 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 133 

generally good; and with baking powder and our excellent Colorado flour, 
they make as nice biscuits as ever were eaten. They broil or fry steak 
nicely, and their stewed fruit is well sweetened. The art of making raised 
bread has not yet been acquired. Everywhere the tables are without cover 
ing, and it is doubtful whether a man running Bachelor's Hall ever pro 
vided a table cloth. They take a great many papers and magazines, and it 
would surprise a stranger to learn that a young man working by the day 
or month has kept files of the best magazines for years, and that there is 
no topic of general interest nor any important event of the day of which 
he is ignorant. Of course each one is the owner of a town lot, often of a 
business and of a residence lot, and also of outside farming land. In the 
progress and growth of the town and Colony he has an equal share, and the 
time cannot be distant when by the investment he has made of $155 he 
will have a property which will make him independent, while in the East 
he could have secured this only by years of persevering industry.* 

As the people of Greeley struggled with the reluctant soil, they 
thought, no doubt, of the glowing descriptions of the delights of farm 
ing in Colorado printed by the National Land Company in its Star of 
Empire. According to this authority, it was easy to grow 26 to 28 
bushels of wheat per acre, or, with extra care, 40 to 70 ; oats yielded 
40 to 80 bushels; barley, 30 to 40; potatoes, 100 to 300. Actually, the 
first crops of wheat were 15 bushels, and later crops, 20; oats, 30 
bushels ; and barley, 20. The Star of Empire reported turnips 42 inches 
around and 20 tons of cabbages raised to the acre, and that cabbages 
weighing 50 pounds were too common to mention; a mother sending 
her child to the store for the smallest cabbage was surprised to have 
him haul back one weighing 40 pounds. Actually, it was said, in many 
a Greeley cabbage-patch in the early days three-quarters of the crop 
would be too small to harvest, and some would be not bigger than a 
man's fist. 

Many were the difficulties faced by this pioneer irrigation colony. 
There was little market for vegetables, and the nursery business was a 
failure because of the cold winters. The colonists had expected to find 
plenty of timber, but it was impossible to bring it down from the 
mountains, for it could not be floated on the streams because of their 
irregular depth and the dams built for irrigation. They had heard that 
the whole country was underlain with coal which could be easily mined, 
but shafts 2,700 feet deep struck no coal. The colonists attempted to 

*Ibid. 



134 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

dam a stream for water-power to run a flour-mill, but it swamped the 
lots, the water rose in cellars, they paid the damages and abandoned 
the power project; all the water was needed for irrigation anyway. 
A cooperative stock and cattle company was formed which brought 
seventy-five head of cattle, but in the first winter hay rose to $40 a 
ton, and later the stock had to be sold at 50 cents on the dollar. 

Since the country had previously been a cattle range, there was con 
stant warfare between the stock-raisers and the colonists, a warfare 
which was repeated throughout the West wherever agriculture invaded 
the range. As soon as the grass of early summer was eaten, the cattle 
began to move into the cultivated areas; the colony had to employ 
herders to ward them off night and day, but these could not cope with 
the beasts from the range. In this emergency Meeker printed a 
proclamation declaring that since 

cattle still roam through our streets and over our fields eating up the last 
vestige of our labors as a preliminary to an attack upon our shade trees 
and their total destruction, it is time that we meet and defend ourselves 
with the powers of the law. The protection of our strawberry grounds, 
containing as much as a quarter million of plants alone, demands our 
organization. This is not so much a question in regard to fences as in 
regard to order and decency, for our town and colony will be disgraced by 
cattle running at large through our streets; shade trees will be impossible, 
for even fences themselves will be comparatively useless since there are 
enough breachy cattle to demolish common fences, the same as in Denver, 
and in all the ranches of the territory where the vast herds will repeat this 
year their course of desolation. The law is right in compelling men to take 
care of their stock, and it is not possible to make stock profitable unless it 
is taken care of. 

At this time Horace Greeley visited the colony, and in conference 
with Meeker they decided to fence the entire area. The fence was built 
along the ditches so that the vast hungry herds, driven by winter 
blizzards, would be checked by both the fence and the ditch. Barbed 
wire, which was later to solve the fencing problem in the West, was 
not yet manufactured ; so the fencing was a very difficult and expensive 
enterprise, requiring a large post, costing 25 cents, every 16 feet and 
two smooth wires costing 8 cents per pound an expense of $400 per 
mile (as compared to $100 for barbed wire), the entire outlay being 
$20,000. As soon as it was built, the legislature was petitioned to pass 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 135 

a law permitting communities to fence themselves in; but the law 
when enacted provided for inspection by a board which included cattle 
men, and these made the situation as difficult as possible for the 
colonists, requiring the fence to be reconstructed to suit their whim. 
The war between cattlemen and farmers continued, and the colonists 
were called "Greeley saints who have fenced themselves in from the 
heathen round about." When they impounded the cattle found straying 
on their lands, three masked armed men rode in one Sunday when the 
guard was asleep and drove them away over the hills, after having had 
them fed all winter at the colonists' expense. 

The last and most grievous of the afflictions suffered by the colonists 
was a plague of grasshoppers, which began in 1872 and continued with 
increasing intensity for four years. The farmers fought them with 
smudges, fire, and water ; they gathered them into trenches and crushed 
them by the thousand with rollers. They plowed their eggs into the 
ground, turned hogs and poultry to feed upon them, but to no avail. 
The Greeley Tribune reported : 

All gardens that were planted are destroyed, save peas and young corn. 
Currants and gooseberries have but a few leaves and their fruit buds are 
eaten out. Raspberries and blackberries that have been watered, and which 
are in a thrifty condition, are blossoming and will probably bear. Straw 
berries that were watered promptly will bear perhaps half a crop, and the 
fruit is now a quarter grown. Grapes are not injured to any great extent. 
Pie-plant is all eaten down. Most kinds of quite young forest trees have 
suffered badly, but the box elder, though badly trimmed, is pulling through 
triumphantly. People are now planting cucumbers, melons and squashes, 
with the hope of having gardens. Tomato, cabbage, and other plants are 
yet kept within doors or under glass. Captain Boyd has fought the grass 
hoppers successfully with his machine, but then he did not have the 
crowds others have had. Benjamin H. Eaton is fighting the enemy vigor 
ously, and expects to save as much as two hundred acres of wheat. But as 
fast as the grasshoppers eat down a few acres, the plow is turned in, and 
corn is immediately planted. We must have as many as seven or eight 
inventors who have brought into use as many different kinds of machines 
for destroying the grasshoppers.* 

At the height of the grasshopper plague, 

* David Boyd, Greeley and the Union Colony (Greeley, Greeley Tribune Press, 
1890). 



136 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

A. Z. Salomon offered the best suit of clothes in his store to the man who 
would bring him a million grasshoppers. John Templeton, a canny Scotch 
man, using a trap, caught what he estimated to be a million or over. He 
counted an ounce and weighed the rest. When he brought them in, about 
a bran-sack full, Salomon refused to pay for them because they were dead. 
But nothing daunted, Templeton filled another sack with live ones, when 
the merchant insisted that he should count them. Templeton said that he 
would have to empty them out to do that, and as it was night, this would 
have to be done in the clothing store. Then Salomon gave in, and the 
canny Scot thereafter went around Sundays in a suit of the finest blue 
broadcloth. 

During these troublous times Meeker was hopefully experimenting 
with the growing of trees and fruits. At first accepted as an agricultural 
oracle, it gradually became apparent that his knowledge was mostly 
theoretical. David Boyd, in his History of Greeley, says there never 
was a people who so set their hearts upon having orchards laden with 
fruit, and their efforts to grow trees were unceasing. It had never 
occurred to Meeker that Greeley was not a fruit country, and he had 
declared that they could grow apples, cherries, pears, peaches, apricots, 
and all kinds of grapes. But orchards did not thrive, and forest trees 
did little better. There is something pathetic in the letters that Horace 
Greeley wrote Meeker as to the planting of his own property. He 
wanted it 

sowed with locusts, well scalded. At all events I wish I could find a bushel 
of hickory nuts, and two of white oak acorns that would germinate. I 
would like also to sow white pine seed, if they could be had in a fit condi 
tion. I do not want to plant trees that would cost too much ; but mostly 
to sow seeds of the best varieties for your soil and climate. If we cannot 
find any that are just right but locust, let us sow that, and let a part of 
the land be sowed to grasses or roots till next fall, when we can get acorns 
and hickory nuts. 

Of this experiment Meeker wrote: 

Mr. Greeley's lot was planted in the spring with 1,000 small evergreens, 
2 y ooo larches. Water was obtained with great difficulty. A few lived until 
next year; then all died. Then locusts and acorns were sowed, a few came 
up, fewer lived. The oaks grew only a few inches high. Then the whole 
was sowed to black walnuts which came up well, but winter killed. Mr. 
Greeley had no idea of the great difficulty that is presented in growing 
even hardy trees on this soil. The only trees now growing are cottonwoods 
and box elders, which are doing well. 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 137 

Finally Meeker delivered himself frankly on the subject of tree- and 
fruit-culture : 

_ When we located in this valley of Colorado, we had no kind of idea of the 
difficulties attending the culture of many kinds of vegetation. The great 
variety of forest trees which grew in the states without any trouble, many 
of them as spontaneously as weeds, can here scarcely be made to live when 
brought hither with the greatest care and cultivated with the utmost 
attention. Thousands upon thousands of evergreens and larches have been 
set in this town and vicinity, and now we know of one larch that is alive, 
and which perhaps grows an inch a year; and there are not more than a 
dozen evergreens. Perhaps twenty barrels of black walnuts, butternuts, and 
hickory nuts have been sown, and there can be found a few black walnut 
trees two and three feet high, which, during some winters, freeze to the 
ground. Chestnuts live about as well as bananas would. Of the vast num 
ber of apple trees obtained the first year, it is doubtful whether twenty 
are alive; and pears, cherries and plums have gone the same way. The 
hardiest sorts of apples, usually ironclads elsewhere, have been carefully 
nursed and watched, and they have grown into nice trees, but the fierce 
cold winds have struck them to the heart. 

As the capacity of the irrigation canals was increased and the farmers 
learned more about the methods to be used, crops became more plentiful 
and prosperity more general. Hardy strains of trees were made to 
flourish. The ichneumon-fly finally destroyed the grasshoppers, and 
they never returned. The day came when J. Max Clark could write: 

Hundreds of miles of lateral canals now link together the barren ridges and 
valleys of 1870 in one continuous cultivated garden. In their season, fields 
of emerald green of almost unlimited extent gladden the eye from every 
elevation. Great squares of wheat and oats and alfalfa delight the passerby 
on every thoroughfare, and fields of potatoes of astonishing size, with 
rows which fade from the vision in the distance, are seen on every hand. 
The horned toad, the prairie dog and the owl have retired to the sand hill 
and the plain beyond. The wolf only yelps at us from a distance as we pass 
him by, and the robin and the dove build nests in our groves. 

On his last inspection of the colony, in 1879, Meeker wrote: 

It seldom falls to the lot of mortal, short-seeing man in this uncertain 
world to have his hopes and views so completely realized or, to tell the 
truth, carried out so far beyond what he had reason to expect, as is 
exhibited in the wide area of Greeley farms, and is actually beheld during 
the last week. I am sure I am a good judge of such things, for, in the way 



138 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of duty and business, I have visited and critically examined the finest 
farm regions of our country, as in Central and Western New York, in 
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, and not excepting the fairest 
portions of the Southern States, and among all these I have nowhere beheld 
a more unexceptionable presentation nowhere have seen wheat of greater 
average yield, corn of cleaner culture, potatoes of finer promise, clover of 
better stand; in short, I may say, that I have never seen the equal in clean 
and nice preparation, and in culture, wherever I went, and there was pre 
sented an unbroken and apparently boundless scene of the highest order 
the result of intelligent rural industry. Let me not forget to add a few 
more things. That broad landscape is broken and enlivened by groves and 
lines of beautiful trees, many fruit trees now in bearing, imparting to the 
view such as one imagines is presented in the best parts of England, such 
as we. have all seen in the old States, as the result of a hundred years' 
culture and growth. Everywhere beautiful streams of water skirt the fields 
and cross the roads. There are nice farm houses and cheerful homes. The 
schoolhouses are not absent, while from many a gentle swell of green or 
of gold one sees in the distant valley the town with its spires, as jewels set 
to adorn a gorgeous robe. 

But with all the prosperity that came to his town of Greeley, little 
came to Nathan Meeker. When he began the Greeley project, he 
had saved some $15,000, but this was soon swallowed up in the ex 
pense of moving and settling in the new country. He built a large 
house, which cost him enormously because of the high charges for 
labor and building materials in the early days. He said later that 
he knew it was beyond his means, but he felt he ought to build it 
to show the rest of the people his faith in the community and to 
give them a sense of its stability. He did not take up any large tract 
of land, so he never profited from the rise in real-estate values. He 
felt that his legitimate part in the general scheme of things was to 
found a first-class newspaper and edit it, so he established the Greeley 
Tribune. The paper did not pay, and he was urged to sell out to the 
rival which had established itself, but he refused to do so. Later he 
borrowed $1,000 from Horace Greeley and put it into the paper on 
the understanding that it would be repaid only when Meeker was 
in good financial condition. Upon Greeley's death, however, his estate 
sued for the money; and after contributing 40 acres of land which 
the colony had deeded him in return for his many years of unpaid 
services, Meeker accepted the post of government agent at the White 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 139 

River Indian Agency in northwestern Colorado in order to get cash 
to pay the balance and other debts. 

Even in this time of seeming defeat, however, he took courage 
and satisfaction in the progress the colony had made and the fruition 
of his own ideas which it represented. "After all, Max," he said to 
J. M. Clark, "although the enterprise yielded me nothing in return, 
in a worldly sense, yet I am proud to have been the leader in such 
a movement; it will be counted an honor to every man who took 
part in the settlement of Greeley. I am more than compensated in 
the grand success of the undertaking itself and I have nothing to 
regret." 

Just as he had approached the problem of farming and community 
building in a more or less doctrinaire spirit, so he approached the 
Indian problem. He felt that if the Indian could be induced to lead 
an industrial and agricultural life, all his difficulties would be solved. 
Meeker arrived at the Agency in May, 1878, and by November he 
had begun to institute his scheme for making the Indians self-sup 
porting by putting twenty-five men to work digging an irrigation 
canal. He reported that they despised the work at first, but as time 
went by, he thought they were getting to like it better. A week later, 
however, they stopped and only agreed to go on when paid $15 a 
month and double rations; for work, they said, was beneath the 
dignity of Indians, and their treaty with the Government called for 
no such thing. While one group of Indians continued to work, an 
other party sulked; but in the fall, when the water was turned into 
the ditch, Meeker thought that most of them were pleased and 
were anxious to begin farming. So sanguine of the outcome was he 
that he believed he now had the key to the solution of the Indian 
problem : 

A great mistake was made at an early day, in supposing the Indians 

capable of civilization equally with the whites The proper course to 

pursue was to teach them to engage in common industries, and then a 
basis would have been laid for their education and improvement; for it is 
only upon rural life and its duties and cares that civilization and Chris 
tianity can rest, and if I were going to start a new religion I would make 
this the first article of the creed. Treated as if they were children, for they 
are little more, and entirely dropping the notion of their awful poetic 
character, and the sacredness of the land of their fathers; in short, coining 



140 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

down to the common sense of things, and in a few years they are bound 
to become as decent human beings as the average of us. 

But Meeker was too optimistic. The sullen Indians were merely 
nursing their grievance in silence, which was broken by the announce 
ment that they were going to leave the Agency and live by hunting ; 
those who had had shoes given to them for working pulled them 
off and threw them in a heap on the floor of the Agency, withdrawing 
in savage grandeur. Meeker settled this strike after a week, extra 
rations were distributed, and joyful shouts rose from the red men's 
tents. But, although he tried to convince them that it was to their 
advantage to work on the land, they were still far from enthusiastic. 
Like all reformers, Meeker expected the change in their character and 
habits to be made overnight, and he blundered still further in a 
system of rewards for the workers which satisfied neither the in 
dustrious nor the idle. 

All summer the Indians brooded over their wrongs. Finally a chief 
came to Meeker and said that the Utes did not want any more 
land plowed but wanted to live as they had always lived. When 
Meeker ordered the plowing to be continued, two Indians came with 
guns to stop it. After a big pow-wow it was agreed that the family 
who lived on the 8o-acre tract being plowed would move away, Meeker 
would help them build a house and a well, and the land would be 
plowed. In celebration of this victory he wrote an article for the 
Greeley Tribune ending with this paragraph: "This stopping plows 
by bullets is by no means a new thing in America, for so to speak, 
the plow has plowed its way from the Atlantic to the heart of the 
Rocky Mountains, through showers of bullets, and the American 
plow is yet to turn furrows across China and the Steppes of Tartary, 
and even invert the soil around sacred Jerusalem ' Speed the Plow! 7 " 

These words "Speed the Plow," appropriately enough, were the 
last that Nathan Meeker ever wrote for his paper. A short time 
later, when he was suffering from an injured shoulder, an Indian 
came into the Agency, seized him, and dragging him violently out 
of the house, threw him against a fence while other Indians placidly 
looked on. After this violence Meeker at last realized that the Indians 
were not as tractable as they appeared to be on the surface, and 
in September, 1879, ne appealed to the military authorities for troops. 



RECLAIMING THE DESERT 141 

Major Thomas T. Thornburg was despatched to his aid from Fort 
Steele with 160 cavalry; but at the narrow canon of Milk Creek, 25 
miles from the Agency, the Indians ambushed the company, killed 
the commander and 12 soldiers and wounded 42, and killed 200 mules 
in the wagon-train. A scout having escaped and taken the news to 
the Army post, another small detachment of cavalry arrived on the 
third morning of the siege, and General Wesley Merritt also hurried 
from Cheyenne with 300 cavalry and 250 infantry. When they reached 
the White River Agency, the Indians offered no resistance ; but Gen 
eral Merritt saw the wreck and carnage, the dead and wounded, and 
viewing the signs of the massacre on every hand, he turned aside and 
wept like a child. 

On the afternoon of the battle at Milk Creek the Indians had 
advanced on the Agency, killed Meeker and the rest of the men, 
and taken the women captive. One of the survivors wrote, "It is 
not necessary to give here in detail the scenes of horror and desola 
tion that met the eyes of the soldiers as they marched down to the 
silence of the ruined, sacked agency. One building was left standing 
and the ground was strewn with the murdered men. Father Meeker 
was horribly mutilated, the rest were lying where they were shot 
and were buried where they fell." 

Thus was ended the life of one of the West's most faithful servants. 
Meeker's death was the tragic result of his attempt to lead the Indian, 
as he had led the white man, to "speed the plow." Memorials have 
been raised to him, but his true memorial is his beloved community 
of Greeley, reclaimed from the "Great American Desert," where now, 
in the surrounding County of Weld, there are 357,000 acres of land 
under irrigation, one-seventh of all the beet-sugar of the country is 
produced, and 3,000,000 bushels of wheat are grown every year. For 
although Meeker modestly said that he took no credit for the colony 
but gave it instead to the farmers who took hold and carried on the 
colony, Horace Greeley wisely declared, "In an important sense 
you are the colony. What would the Exodus have been without Moses, 
and Joshua, I fear, has not yet appeared." But it is not only the 
community of Greeley and the State of Colorado that owe him a 
debt of gratitude. Wherever men practise irrigation and live under 
its laws, they must pay tribute to the memory of that pioneer of 



142 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

irrigation, Nathan Cook Meeker. And all who travel through the 
beautiful countryside that he helped to create can unite with David 
Boyd, one of Greeley's early pioneers, in his final eulogy: 

Every brick block, every church, every schoolhouse, every beautiful resi 
dence reared in Greeley is a monument to N. C. Meeker. Every tree 
planted, every lawn clothed in grass and bordered with flowers, every field 
waving with grain in and around Greeley is a monument to N. C. Meeker. 
Every bird that sings in the branches of our trees that border the fields 
and streets once covered with cactus, every bee that hums in our clover 
lawns or fields of alfalfa sings or hums a requiem to the ashes of N. C. 
Meeker. 



CHAPTER VII 

DENVER AND HER STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 

TRANSPORTATION facilities, native resources, and pluck 
combined to determine the fates of the large cities that grew 
up in the West in the nineteenth century. Sometimes one of 
these factors predominated, sometimes another. In the case of Den 
ver it was preeminently pluck. For this Rocky Mountain town had 
no particular advantage over her neighbors in the matter of near-by 
mining resources, and from the days of the earliest stage-coaches her 
citizens had to struggle constantly to put their town on the main 
routes of transportation. Always they worked whole-heartedly to get 
the railroads which meant life to Denver, but more than 70 years 
went by before their dream of a direct transcontinental outlet, east 
and west, was achieved. 

Denver, the child of the gold-fields, was bom on the 24th of June, 
1858, when W. Green Russell and his party of 104 treasure-seekers, 
from Georgia, southern Kansas, and the Indian Territory, camped 
at the point where Cherry Creek runs into the River Platte and 
panned some minute particles of gold from the sands. It was not 
much color that they found, but it was enough to keep them in 
terested; and some days later they had taken pay dirt to the value 
of $400 or $500 from one spot on Dry Creek. From Lawrence, Kansas, 
came another party of pioneer gold-diggers, who had been seized with 
the itch for adventure when an Indian, Fall Leaf by name, had showed 
John Easter, the village butcher, nuggets of glistening gold which 
he had picked up a year before in a stream "two sleeps from Pike's 
Peak." All pitched their tents in the vicinity of what is now Denver. 
Some began building log cabins, and two towns sprang up, Auraria, 
named after a town in Georgia, and Denver, named in honor of Gen 
eral James W. Denver, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, which 
in those days extended all the way to the summit of the Rocky 

143 



144 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Mountains. In 1860 both towns were combined under the name of 
Denver. 

Not more than $2,000 in gold was taken out that first summer. 
But two other Fifty-eighters continued the search. George Jackson 
of Missouri, on January 5, 1859, built a fire over a frozen gravel-bed 
on Clear Creek, 35 miles to the west of Denver, thawed out the 
ground, and panned coarse gold; he marked the spot, and in the 
spring he returned to take out $5,000 worth of placer gold from 
Jackson Bar, in what later became the mining town of Idaho Springs. 
John H. Gregory of Georgia, prospecting not many miles away, un 
covered the bonanza placer ground of the Gregory Diggings, from 
which sprang Central City and Black Hawk, centers of one of the 
richest mining districts in the world. And the "Pike's Peak country" 
was made. 

To the people of Denver, the beneficiary of all the golden treasure 
that was taken from the Rockies round about, it seemed certain that 
Fortune had marked their city as her own. By the irresistible law 
of gravity the gold flowed down the peaks and canons of the Rockies 
to this Queen City of the Plains. Denver was the center of all the 
feverish activity and excitement that inevitably springs up around 
the mining of the precious metal. She was the goal of thousands of 
emigrants, who pushed forward in a never-ending stream in their 
covered wagons with "Pike's Peak or Bust," "Root, Hog, or Die," 
and other mottoes scrawled on their canvas sides, something after 
the manner of the decorations given their "tin lizzies" by the care 
free youth of a later day. That she would be the commercial metrop 
olis of the vast Western plain and mountain region and the principal 
city on the transcontinental route between Chicago, St. Louis, and 
San Francisco, none could doubt. It was only necessary for her to 
sit tight and wait for Fortune to make her great. 

But despite the fact that Denver was the most lively center of 
population in the Rocky Mountain district, its citizens had to en 
dure the ignominy of having their town left off the first main route 
of the transcontinental mail and passenger stage. It was generally 
considered that the remedying of this foolish oversight would be only 
a matter of a short time, but the fact remained that the transporta 
tion across the country passed the Rockies far to the north, and 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 145 

Denver had to bear the unkind fate of getting its mails by a stub 
line coming down from Fort Laramie. To improve this unhappy situa 
tion it was proposed to lay out a stage-road from Denver directly 
east to Leavenworth, Kansas, and the commission to do this was given 
to B. D. Williams, who later became the first delegate to Congress 
chosen by the Territory of Jefferson. This new unit of government 
had been brought into being in June, 1859, when the people of the 
Pike's Peak district, with true, high-handed Western independence, 
held a constitutional convention, cut themselves off from the Territory 
of Kansas, and declared themselves to be the Territory of Jefferson. 
Although it was unrecognized by Congress for 21 months, when the 
Territory of Colorado was created, the people of the district lived 
under the rule of this hastily and questionably created provisional 
government. And the first Delegate had the additional honor of laying 
out the stage route to Leavenworth. 

Now the citizens of Denver felt that they had indeed put their 
city permanently on the transcontinental traffic route, for the Central, 
Overland, California and Pike's Peak Express Company was soon 
running fifty-two fine Concord coaches over the line from Leavenworth, 
Kansas, making the trip in from 10 to 12 days. But although there was 
a good route directly east, there was none to the west. When traffic ran 
against that massive barrier of the Rocky Mountains at Denver's back 
door, it had to go either north or far south to find a way through. As yet 
there was no road east and west by way of Denver, cutting the 
center of the mountain-range, where the peaks were highest and most 
formidable. 

The situation became serious when Congress, on March 2, 1861, 
two days after creating the Territory of Colorado, authorized the 
first daily overland mail to California, providing that mail should 
be carried to Salt Lake and Denver either by the main line or by 
branches. Clearly, this was Denver's opportunity to obtain recognition 
as the main stopping point on the road from the Missouri to the 
Pacific. Should she continue to be merely a branch-line station, should 
she fail to share fully in the benefits of this million-dollar mail con 
tract, should her people permit their infant metropolis to be passed 
by in favor of the old emigrant road through the South Pass in 
Wyoming? No, a thousand times, no! Indignant at the thought, the 



146 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

citizens held a mass-meeting to initiate the construction of a great 
international highway through the heart of Colorado Territory. At 
this meeting Denver and the other Colorado towns affected subscribed 
men and money, and the Colorado civil engineer, Captain E. L. Bert- 
houd, was entrusted with the task of finding a pass through the center 
of the Rockies over which a road might be built for the overland mail. 
Meanwhile, the mail company offered to run its main line through 
Denver and to the north by way of the Cherokee Trail provided the 
citizens would build the necessary relay stations from Denver north 
to Fort Bridger. But the people of Denver did not wish to be at 
the lower corner of the route; they were determined to place them 
selves once and for all on the main line of a direct east and west 
passageway over the mountains, and so they did not accept the offer 
but turned their attention to the exploration of the Continental Divide. 

On May 6, 1861, Captain Berthoud, in company with the famous 
old scout Jim Bridger, who had been engaged by the coach company 
to lay out the route over the Cherokee Trail but was now diverted 
to this more important mission, set out to find a pass through the 
center of the Rockies. Several days later, after having climbed many 
peaks and ridges in fruitless efforts to discover a pass, the expedition 
broke up into three separate parties which scattered in different di 
rections. Berthoud says he scrambled, jumped, and clambered over 
snowy cliffs all morning until he reached the summit of the divide, 
following the north branch of Clear Creek. Looking eastward, he 
saw another small creek, and after four miles of traveling he found 
that it started from a low, even, well-defined pass, which seemed to 
be lower than any other point in the Rockies north of the 36th 
parallel. Four days of reconnaissance followed, and on May 17, having 
satisfied themselves that this offered a desirable route over the divide, 
the men climbed a high peak adjoining the new trail and raised the 
American flag. 

News of the discovery of Berthoud Pass as the route for a road 
directly west over the mountains electrified Denver. At last her mani 
fest destiny was asserting itself ; now she would be on the main line 
of America's march to the Pacific. Within 24 hours officers of the 
coach company hastened into the mountains to Empire City, where 
the Berthoud route began, examined it, and pronounced it feasible. 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 147 

So Impressed was the company's ex-president, W. H. Russell, that 
he invested heavily in lots and mining claims at Idaho Springs, the 
largest town on the route. He hurried back to Leavenworth by spe 
cial coach, making a new record of 3 days and 21 hours, and held 
a special meeting of the board of directors, at which it was decided 
to send Berthoud and Bridger immediately to mark out the new route 
from Denver to Salt Lake. As a result of this survey Berthoud re 
ported that beyond the shadow of a doubt a good wagon-road of 
easy, practicable grades could be built quickly over the 426 miles 
from Denver to Provo at a cost of $100,000. 

While this survey was going on, the first day of July rolled around, 
when, in order to comply with the provisions of the act of Con 
gress, the daily transcontinental stage-service had to be inaugurated. 
Since Denver had not built the relay stations required by the Cherokee 
Trail route, and as yet, of course, there was no road over the Bert 
houd Pass, she found herself once again left off the main line. The 
overland mail went west via Wyoming, and the Queen City of the 
Plains had to be content with a branch line. 

Still the Denver people were undaunted. When the Colorado and 
Pacific Wagon, Telegraph, and Railroad Company was organized to 
build a road over the Berthoud Pass, Denver interests engineered a bill 
through the legislature by permitting the people of southern Colorado 
to locate the state capital at Colorado City in exchange for a right of 
way for the road company. No road, however, was built by the com 
pany backers, who were evidently interested only in selling their right 
of way at a high profit. The Rocky Mountain News insisted on action, 
declaring that it was only necessary to build and advertise the Bert 
houd Pass route and all western emigration, telegraph, and railroad 
lines would follow it as sure as the sun rises and sets. The editor 
and Governor John Evans personally examined the route and pro 
nounced it practicable, and a subscription was started to make more 
detailed surveys. On the day the engineers left for this work, Con 
gress passed the act authorizing the building of a railroad to the Pa 
cific, and again Denver's anticipation of future greatness was aroused. 
Now there was no doubt that she would be the great half-way sta 
tion on the railroad between New York and San Francisco. 

But interest in the Berthoud Pass route lagged for two reasons. 



148 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

In 1862 the new engineer's report showed the pass to be 11,495 
high and the grade too steep for a railroad ; for this reason, and be 
cause of snow in summer, a tunnel would have to be built at con 
siderable expense. This bore out the opinion of old Jim Bridger, who, 
it was said, had long ago been called from St. Louis by the Union 
Pacific engineers to settle a debate as to the best route for the trans 
continental railroad; with a look of disgust Jim seized a dead coal 
from the ashes of the fire, drew a rough outline map to Bridger Pass, 
and declared, "There's where you fellers can cross with your road 
and nowhere else without more diggin' and cuttin' than you can 
think of." While Denver was digesting the unfavorable report of the 
engineers, however, she received a word of cheer from Ben Holladay, 
"the Napoleon of the Plains." Holladay had bought the bankrupt 
overland-stage company, and he announced that, in return for a charter 
from the legislature of Colorado, he had instructed his agents to 
change the route, so that thereafter the overland mail would pass 
directly through Denver. Great was the rejoicing when, on September 
12, the first through coach of the daily overland mail from the west 
reached Denver. With this glory achieved, the citizens felt that they 
could rest for a while upon their laurels, even though the direct route 
to the west over the Berthoud Pass was still a dream. 

Denver had no doubt of her irresistible attraction for the trans 
continental railroad. For from the first she had been a trading center 
and a magnet for all the mining and commercial interests of the 
mountains. In 1858 Uncle Dick Wooten had arrived among the cactus- 
plants, antelopes, and jack-rabbits and had astonished the town by 
the magnificence of the trading emporium he had opened; it was a 
mammoth store-room, 20 by 32 feet in size, one and a half stories 
high, with an actual board floor and a four-light window. Such lavish 
outlay presaged much for the future greatness of Denver ; and when 
Uncle Dick opened some barrels of "Taos lightning" so called be 
cause it was unnecessary for it to strike twice on the same person 
and hung up a hospitable dipper for thirsty wayfarers, Denver cele 
brated its first Christmas with much good cheer and supreme con 
fidence in a glorious to-morrow. 

Other gold towns sprang up mushroom-like, ready to take away 
Denver's palm of preeminence, but none of them had that mysterious 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 149 

attraction which was steadily and surely making her the metropolis 
of the Rockies. The first years saw the arrival in this town of unhewn 
cottonwood-log houses and dirt roofs of William N. Byers, with his 
shirt-tail full of type, to found the Rocky Mountain News] of Pro 
fessor O. J. Goldrich, graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who drove 
up with an ox-team, faultlessly attired in a cutaway and top-hat, 
wearing a solitaire diamond as big as your thumb, and soon founded 
Denver's first grammar-school; and of Count Murat, the elegant 
barber, who gained fame by charging Horace Greeley a dollar for 
a shave. When snow began to fall, hundreds of miners came down 
from the mountains to winter in Denver. They dressed in buckskin 
trousers, woolen shirts, and slouch hats, and most of them were worn 
and ragged, for new store clothes were exorbitantly expensive in this 
frontier outpost. So was food: milk cost 25 cents a quart, eggs a dollar 
a dozen, watermelons three dollars apiece. But game was cheap, and on 
this luxury the pioneers thrived; antelope and deer-meat sold for 
only four cents a pound. In the summer of 1859 a man arrived with 
a sack of flour which he had wheeled all the way across the plains 
in a hand cart. There was a shortage of flour at the time, and he 
could have sold half of it for a corner lot, with two other lots added 
for the whole sack, which would have made him a profit of $10,000 
within six months. But he refused, and six weeks later the market 
was glutted with flour, so he made nothing. 

On the first overland stage from Leavenworth came Horace Greeley 
of the New York Tribune, who was to become famous for his widely 
advertised advice, "Go west, young man, go west" ; Albert D. Richard 
son of the Boston Journal] and Henry Villard of the Cincinnati Com 
mercial, a young man whom none then thought of as destined to be 
one of the nation's greatest railroad-builders. Their purpose was to 
investigate the mines, and their reports as to the quantities of gold 
being taken out were the most valuable advertisements early Colorado 
ever had. For they stimulated the coming of emigrants again, at a 
time when the stream lagged and many a covered wagon had re 
turned in disgust to spread stories of played-out mining districts and 
to display a new wording of the old slogan, "Pike's Peak and Busted!" 

Of his visit to Denver in 1859, Greeley wrote that every guest at 
the Denver House "is allowed as good a bed as his own blankets will 



150 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

make him. The charges are no higher than at the Astor or other first 
class hotels, except for liquor, twenty-five cents a drink for dubious 
whiskey, colored and nicknamed to suit the taste of customers. . . . 
Still, a few days of such luxury surfeited me, mainly because the 
drinking room was also occupied by several black-legs as a gambling 
hall and their incessant clamor, persisted in at all hours up to mid 
night, became at length a nuisance. Then the visitors of that drink 
ing and gambling room had a careless way, when drunk, of firing 
revolvers, sometimes at each other, at other times quite miscellane 
ously, which struck me as inconvenient for a quiet guest." And he 
reported that there were "more brawls, more fights, more pistol shots 
with criminal intent in this log city of one hundred and fifty dwellings, 
not three-fourths of them completed nor two-thirds inhabited nor 
one-third fit to be, than in any community of equal numbers on 
earth." 

Yet the miners listened attentively when Greeley rose to address 
them in the bar-room of this same hotel. Rotund, full-faced, with 
fringe of whiskers under his jaw from ear to ear, wearing large 
spectacles, a big, whitish, soft felt hat, a long frock-coat, and baggy 
trousers, he was a picturesque figure. On one side "the tipplers silently 
sipped their grog, on the other the gamblers respectfully suspended 
the shuffling of cards," while he stood in the middle and made a 
strong antidrinking, antigambling speech, which was politely received. 
Even if these frontier rounders were indifferent to his advice, they 
may have realized its fundamental soundness as a theory of action 
and agreed with him as heartily as did the Indian described by Albert 
Richardson : "The thousand Arapahoes encamped in the heart of Den 
ver were ordinarily peaceful, but they were dangerous when intoxi 
cated. One evening I saw a brawny brave, with a club, thwack two 
of his drunken brethren upon their heads, so lustily that the blows 
were heard a quarter of a mile away. Then, musing for some moments, 
he solemnly ejaculated, ' Whiskey bad! Make Indian bad!' " 

The year after Greeley visited Denver, the city had a population 
of 4,000, supported three daily newspapers, and boasted a theater, 
the Apollo, seating 350, illuminated by candles, admission one dollar. 
Five thousand acres had been staked out into building-lots ; strangers 
were plied with investments in real estate and mines. Blake Street 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 151 

was said to be as lively as Broadway in New York. Farming had 
reached sufficient proportions that in the grocery-stores one might 
see rich yellow pumpkins, potatoes, turnips, and cucumbers, sights 
which must have delighted the miners after their long summer in 
the mountains on the monotonous diet of dried beans and bacon. 
Adventurous young women had begun to be attracted to the frontier; 
some of them made the trip in male attire, and one advertisement 
asking for the services of a lad to fetch water and black boots stated 
that "no young woman in disguise need apply." New-comers were 
fascinated by the bustle and adventurous spirit of the two-year-old 
town; and always there was the additional fascination, the haunting 
lure, of the Rockies to the west a dark, irregular, polychrome wall 
varying from deep, rich purple through mauve and pink to snowy 
white, endlessly changing in the changing light. 

In these early times the arrival of the daily overland mail with 
its passengers from the East was one of the town's most colorful 
events. And many other vehicles added their rattle to the din, among 
them the stage from Santa Fe, carrying eight heavily armed guards 
and eleven passengers, two of whom rode outside. There was many 
a Conestoga wagon, with its curved body built water-tight like a boat 
so as to ford streams easily. But the heaviest part of the traffic was 
carried in "Concords," built in the New Hampshire town of that 
name and imitated, but never equaled, elsewhere. With no weight on 
the roof, they were less top-heavy than the stage-coaches; when 
empty, the Concord jolted and pitched like a ship in a heavy sea, 
but when full and nicely ballasted, its motion was easy and elastic; 
and its construction was so sturdy that it was said "Concords never 
break down; they just wear out." These vehicles with the supply 
wagons, pack-trains, and stages from the mines filled the Denver 
streets with dust all day long. 

The stage-driver of the Sixties was a skilled expert who could drive 
six horses with a single hand and could sweep around mountain turns 
or pass another team with such ease and grace as to be the wonder 
of Eastern visitors. Dashing down steep mountain grades and over 
rough, circuitous roads (the stage-road to Central City crossed the 
Clear Creek bed fifty-eight times in eight miles), the driver never 
for a minute lost control; the horses responded to his every word, 



152 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

or if they failed to do so, they received the punishment of a lash from 
his curling whip which drew blood from their flanks. Ten miles an 
hour was not an uncommon speed over good roads, and the driver 
was a dignified, even majestic, and usually taciturn figure as he 
gathered up his reins and urged his horses forward. Indeed, some 
of the drivers were men of education, as were many of the other 
men who performed rough work in the West. It was not unusual, 
said a contemporary writer, "to find some graduate of Yale bull- 
whacking his own team from the river to the mines, looking as if 
he had seldom seen soap and water and had pitched his clothes on 
at some second hand shop." 

For its letters and newspapers from the East, Denver was mainly 
dependent on Ben Holladay's Overland Mail, for that swiftest of mes 
sengers, The Pony Express, turned northwest at Julesburg. The or 
dinary mail, bringing a thousand letters a day, charged 25 cents for 
a letter, and, indeed, the 25 cent piece was the smallest coin in cir 
culation; but the Pony Express, because of its speed, charged $5 for 
a half-ounce letter and would not take one at any price if it had 
reached its limit of carrying capacity, 20 pounds. Although it took 
22 days to send mail from New York to San Francisco via Panama, 
the Pony Express carried it from the Missouri River to San Francisco 
in ten days. 

But still Denver had no direct route to the west ; the overland mail 
went out of its way to reach the city, and the Pony Express service 
was only a branch, coming down from the main line at Julesburg. 
To remedy this vexing situation various road-building companies were 
formed to build over the Berthoud Pass, but none achieved success. 
Finally, in 1865, the legislature dissolved the corporation to which 
it had granted the right of way over Berthoud Pass and gave it to 
Ben Holladay's Overland Wagon Road Company. But even with 
this powerful backing the road was not completed, and, indeed, no 
road was built over the pass until a decade later, in 1874. Now that 
the Pacific-railroad bill had been enacted by Congress, the Union 
Pacific was pushing on to the Rockies from the Missouri River, and 
the Central Pacific was rapidly laying its rails eastward from San 
Francisco. Of course they would pass through Denver all the resi 
dents of the mile-high city were agreed on that, and the Queen of 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 153 

the Plains would soon occupy her rightful position as the great cen 
tral metropolis on the new transcontinental railway. 

The Union Pacific had already tried unsuccessfully to find a feasible 
route over Berthoud Pass. Its engineer, F. M. Case, had run several 
lines over the Pass, but all were considered too difficult; and in the 
course of his surveys Case reported the Pass to be 1,000 feet higher 
than Berthoud's elevation, a statement which caused him to be charged 
with misrepresentation. In 1866 General Grenville M. Dodge, chief 
engineer of the Union Pacific, had sent a surveying party under one of 
his best engineers, Percy Brown, to try to find a suitable route over 
the Rockies at their center, so that the road might be routed through 
Denver ; and for several months they carried on their search. From his 
early writings it appears that Dodge had long since settled in his own 
mind the desirability of locating the road through the South, or Bridger, 
Pass, in Wyoming, and what is now Cheyenne; but Denver interests 
had brought pressure to bear on the board of directors, so he ordered 
a careful examination of the Denver route. 

By November, however, no satisfactory progress having been made, 
Dodge himself joined the surveying party to see if he could be of 
assistance in finding a way through the center of the Rockies at 
the Hog Back. But whatever sympathetic feelings he may have had 
for Denver's interests received a serious setback when, on November 
7, there came up a blizzard so terrific that even the mules would 
not face it. So severe was the snow-storm that Dodge saw that the 
only hope of saving his party lay in abandoning the pack-train and 
trying to get down from the mountains on foot. They cached the 
packs and turned the mules loose, and after a day and a night of 
hard struggle the party arrived safely in Boulder Valley. But the 
fact thai such a blizzard could blow up so early in the season in 
that locality decided Dodge against any further attempt to push the 
Union Pacific through the Rockies at Denver's back door. He aban 
doned the survey and reported to the board of directors on Novem 
ber 15 that the Denver route was impracticable. 

There were other reasons, too, for the Union Pacific's refusal to 
build through Denver, the early settlers said. Of course, construction 
over the Berthoud Pass would cost more than by the Bridger Pass; 
moreover the route through Denver was more than 100 miles shorter, 



154 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and since the Union Pacific was getting $48,000 a mile in government 
subsidies for all track laid in the mountain section, it was no wonder 
that the directors wanted to send the road the long way around 
through Cheyenne and thus add half a million dollars to their pay 
ments. They also had opportunity to profit from real-estate specula 
tion should they create a new city instead of building into an old 
one. Denver fought the matter to the bitter end; when the Union 
Pacific directors looked coldly on her aspirations, Colorado's two 
territorial Delegates in Washington, John Evans and Jerome B. Chaf- 
fee, waged a fierce battle to have the Union Pacific diverted to Denver, 
but to no avail. Again Denver found itself left off the main line. 

So swift and incredible was the blow that the whole city was 
stunned. By this one act, it seemed, the future commercial leadership 
of the region had been snatched away from her and presented to 
the upstart railroad town of Cheyenne. So deep was the foreboding 
that many a resident sold out his interests and left the city, some 
to share in the bright future of the new town in Wyoming. By 1867 
the Union Pacific had reached Cheyenne, the old Julesburg-Denver 
stage line had been abandoned, and the first coach had made the trip 
over the new stage route to Cheyenne in 24 hours. The future looked 
black indeed for Denver. The one ray of hope was the fact that in 
June, 1866, Congress had passed an act compelling the Kansas Pacific 
to become the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific, though remaining 
an independent corporation, and to connect with the main line at a 
point not more than 50 miles west of the longitude of Denver. How 
ever, the government subsidy in land extended over only a part of the 
proposed route, so the Kansas Pacific Company was not very strong 
financially. 

Now began a nerve-racking time for Denver business m&i, while 
they were torn between the attractions of one scheme after another 
to secure rail connection with the Union Pacific. Dodge had recom 
mended to his directors that a branch line be built to Denver, but 
it was soem apparent that this would not be done, for the directors 
declared they had no government authority to build such a line. 
W. A. H. Loveland, of the rival town of Golden, had organized the 
Colorado Central Railroad Company to build east and west through 
his town and over the Berthoud Pass, with the hope that the Union 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 155 

Pacific would adopt this route and purchase his road. When the Union 
Pacific decided against the Berthoud Pass, however, Loveland turned 
his road into a project to build north and south and connect with the 
Union Pacific at Cheyenne ; he asked the counties through which the 
road would pass to apportion among them the $600,000 required for 
construction, and Denver's Arapahoe County was assigned one-third 
of the cost. While Denver toyed with this idea, yet feared that if she 
accepted it, the promoters would, by some hook or crook, give Golden 
the favored position on their line, the Kansas Pacific declared that 
it would build immediately to Denver at no cost to the city. Loveland 
then started his survey from Cheyenne and declared his intention of 
building directly to Golden, giving Denver only a branch line. In this 
he was supported by all the northern mining towns, so Denver found 
the most powerful interests in the state arrayed against her. Although 
$200,000 in bonds had already been voted by Arapahoe County for 
Loveland's line, it was stipulated that the railway must be built di 
rectly to Denver; and when it was discovered that Denver was to be 
discriminated against, the irate citizens disgustedly broke off all rela 
tions with the Loveland project and pinned their faith on the Kansas 
Pacific. V 

The year 1867 was the crucial year in the city's history, for it was 
the decisions made and the action taken then that definitely determined 
where the future metropolis of the Rocky Mountain states was to be. 
Had her people bowed before the decrees of the great Pacific-railroad 
interests and surrendered the palm to Cheyenne, Denver might be a 
small town to-day. But the courage and energy and perseverance of 
the citizens of this frontier community of 7,000 people literally created 
a city from the ground up, and they acted like a magnet in drawing 
the railways and trade and population that made the pioneer town 
a cosmopolitan metropolis. In this year of 1867 many of the weaker- 
kneed and less imaginative were loudly declaring that Denver's day 
was over, and they were selling their property for what it would bring 
and moving to Cheyenne. Even the strong banks of Deliver were 
establishing branches in the northern town, business was rushing there 
and deadly dull in Denver, and it looked as if the new town would 
be the future distributing point for the Rockies and Plains region. 

Within the year a traveler was to write this requiem of Denver: 



156 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

"The old mining excitement has ceased. The old overland stage has 
stopped and its business rushes past on a railroad one hundred miles 
to the north. Business is dull; the town is quiet; almost an eastern 
village. I see scarcely a new house going up, plenty of places to let." 
Agriculture was being carried on in only a small way in the territory 
tributary to Denver, and though mining was of some moment, it had 
died down considerably and was retarded by lack of railway transporta 
tion. Under these conditions the Rocky Mountain News was whistling 
to keep up its courage when it declared that "this Cheyenne excite 
ment is not going to kill off Denver." Moreover, the arrogant railroad 
town now started a movement to form a new territory with itself as 
the capital, taking the land needed from Dakota and Colorado. The 
project was entrusted to General Jack Casement, the Union Pacific 
contractor, who promised to push it through Congress. At this high 
handed proceeding the Rocky Mountain News exploded: "Colorado 
objects to submitting to the slicing up of its Territory for the mere 
convenience of a town on wheels which last fall was at North Platte, 
this spring at Julesburg, this fall at Cheyenne, and will be next fall at 
Rocky Mountain City or some other point on the Laramie Plains." 
But the gloom and humiliation were deep when it was learned that 
"back east" Vice-President Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific had 
said, "Denver is too dead to bury." 

Even though left off the main Pacific railroad, Denver hopefully 
awaited the coming of the Kansas Pacific, which was now 310 miles 
to the east, in the comforting belief that half a loaf was better than 
none. But the cruelest blow of all fell when, on November 8, 1867, 
Colonel James Archer of the Kansas Pacific arrived in Denver for a 
conference with its citizens. At first he was hailed joyfully as the har 
binger of good news, but when it was discovered that he came not to 
announce the day of the railroad's arrival but to ask financial aid, the 
city's leaders were sick with discouragement. For Archer demanded 
that Denver contribute the vast sum of $2,000,000 to enable his road 
to build into the city. 

The repeated disappointments that Denver had suffered now hung 
a pall over the spirits of the people. They had been left off the Union 
Pacific, double-crossed by Loveland and his railroad, and now were 
asked for the impossible sum of $2,000,000 to get a branch line to 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 157 

Kansas City. Morale was low, hope sick unto death; a new element, 
a new personality, was needed to bring courage and enthusiasm to 
the people. In this emergency Colonel D. C. Dodge of Denver wired 
his friend General Dodge, explaining the situation and asking for 
help and, if possible, a counter-proposition from the Union Pacific. 
In response to this request there hurried to the city none other than 
that effervescent and eccentric promoter, globe-trotter, and spell 
binder, George Francis Train. In anticipation of his arrival, the busi 
ness leaders of the city organized the Denver Board of Trade with the 
special purpose of looking after the city's transportation interests, 
and the stage was set for action. 

On the evening of November 15, 1867, a mass-meeting was called 
which included the members of the new Board of Trade, and there 
that famous man of vision was presented to the assembled citizens of 
Denver. With utmost innocence he announced that he was willing to 
talk if they would only tell him what to talk about, but first they 
must come closer, closer to the platform, so that he could give them 
all a mental hand-shake. When this was done and the ice broken, this 
medicine man of the railroads declared that the audience might draw 
a sight draft on him for any kind of speech they wanted, and when 
some shouted "Railroads," he acquiesced with, "Railroads it shall be." 

If General Dodge had not been particularly helpful to Denver in 
the matter of surveys, he did the Queen City a good turn now, for it 
was the speech of George Francis Train that put new heart into her 
people and set their feet on the road to riches. Train said that he 
wished it understood that he was not an orator, a linguist, a book 
maker, or anything of the kind. He was also something else besides 
a lunatic and a damn fool, because, while he was making speeches, he 
was also making money. The public should know that the three great 
enterprises of the age were organized over his table. These were the 
Union Pacific, the Credit Mobilier, and the Credit Foncier. The first 
of these credits owned the Union Pacific, the second the towns. He 
had also started the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, connecting 
the Erie with the Mississippi road, forming a great broad-gage from 
New York to the West ; and he had started the Eastern Division of 
the Union Pacific, formerly the Kansas Pacific, by loaning it money. 
He said that he, personally, had inaugurated the Union Pacific, break- 



158 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

ing ground at Omaha, making it the initial point; and though the 
papers denounced and laughed at him on that occasion, the rails were 
now 517 miles west of Omaha, proving his prophetic vision. He had 
introduced the French system of finance to back the enterprise, and 
only by this beneficent device had the work been enabled to go for 
ward. His Omaha lot speculation was appropriately referred to, and 
its success noted as a triumph of instinct over science. He had sold 
6,000 lots there at $500 each, which was a fair beginning for a fortune, 
in his humble opinion. 

Passing to Denver and her railway problem, the great man told his 
now spellbound audience that they had made a grand mistake. They 
had thrown their whole influence in favor of the Eastern Division (or 
Kansas Pacific) and opposed with their whole strength the northern 
line. How was it now ? The Kansas Pacific was at Hays City, Kansas, 
and, judging from the past, it could not reach Denver for two whole 
years. Furthermore, the road really did not intend to come to Denver 
at all, but was proposing to shoot off through Arizona and New Mexico 
to California ; it would do it and leave Denver out in the cold. Denver 
people had used their influence to help the Kansas Pacific get a land- 
grant through Colorado, and now Mr. Archer calmly informed them 
that they could have a road only by coming down with $2,000,000 in 
cash. The Union Pacific was only 100 miles north of Denver. What 
was the people's duty? To get to work and get that connection at 
once. They could have it in six months by energetic work. There was 
a natural route down the Platte, and this route he requested General 
Case to sketch on the blackboard. Picking up a pointer, Train showed 
his listeners how the road could be constructed; he said it could be 
done for $20,000 a mile, or $2,000,000, and he believed it might even 
be done for as low as $14,000 a mile. He declared that this road must 
be built or the town was gone. Everybody would move away. Denver 
could not afford to pay its present enormous freight charge of $r,ooo,- 
ooo on 12,000,000 pounds. Such a charge would soon destroy any 
town. The railroad to the north must be built. 

Train paused for breath, and the audience asked him how to proceed 
to bring this railway project to Denver. He replied that the people 
must force the Kansas Pacific to give up its lands, drop all thought of 
outside aid, and organize at once to build the railroad themselves. 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 159 

He ended by crying dramatically, "Colorado is a great gold mine! 
Denver is a great fact! Make it a great railway center!" He then 
called for a vote. All those in favor of going to work would say "yes/' 
(Loud responses of "yes.") The thing was already accomplished. The 
people would break ground to-morrow and build a mile of it. All in 
favor of this would say "yes." (Responses of "yes.") At this happy 
conclusion, Mr. Train, who professed to speak on the spur of the 
moment and with no thought of what his subject might be, produced 
a list of names which happened fortuitously to be in his pocket, and 
declared that the meeting should organize to build the railway at 
once. And he suggested the membership of the provisional board of 
directors, including seventeen Denver men, Augustus Kountze of 
Omaha, Grenville M. Dodge of Council Bluffs, and John S. Casement 
of Omaha. After reading the list he asked all in favor of such a board 
to say "yes." Loud responses of "yes" left no doubt as to the wishes 
of the audience, and the board was declared to be organized. The 
meeting ended with three cheers for George Francis Train, those 
present later sending him a set of moss-agate jewelry as a token of 
their esteem. 

Two days later, when the formal organization meeting was held, the 
citizens were told that the rising sun of Denver's greatness was at last 
to be seen on the horizon. They need only build the railroad to 
Cheyenne. Poverty would be no excuse either for the community or 
for any of its citizens. More money had been spent in the town on 
whisky and tobacco in the last three years than it would take to 
build the road. They were better off than if they had been put on the 
main line in the first place, because then they would have had only 
one railroad ; now they would exert themselves and have at least two. 
In 50 years Denver would be not only the great railway center of the 
West, but the great bullion center of the nation. And it was declared 
that with the railroad built, property now worth two million dollars 
would be worth twenty million. "The time for talk is past," cried the 
chairman. "The time for action is come." 

Stimulated by the bubbling enthusiasm that Train had inspired, the 
city took up its new task with high spirits. Railroad talk was in the 
air, railroad-building filled the newspapers, a railway map of Denver 
was printed on the envelopes used by every business man in the city ; 



160 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and the Denver Pacific Railway, with a capital stock of $2,000,000, 
was organized, with Bela M. Hughes as president and David H. Moffat 
as treasurer, to build a direct line 107 miles long from Denver to 
Cheyenne. Now the people were called upon to save their city; in 
numerable meetings were held, and every man was reminded "in the 
most solemn manner that he must decide what was the utmost he 
could invest in the railroad stock to ensure that his property would 
retain its value. As a result the people of Denver massed solidly behind 
the project with money and enthusiasm; many who could not give 
cash donated even cross-ties, labor, and other services ; the community 
rose as a man to meet the crisis. Nearly $300,000 was subscribed to 
the railroad's stock; with hardly a dissenting vote the county passed 
a $500,000 bond-issue; work was begun, grading was pushed at the 
rate of two miles a day, and the Board of Trade confidently declared 
that a connection would be established with Chicago by November, 
1868. 

With the commitment to build a railroad connection, the town 
experienced a change of heart in regard to securing statehood for 
Colorado. Many had thought the territory was not yet strong enough 
to enter the Union, and the President of the United States had twice 
vetoed statehood bills. But now a government land-subsidy was needed 
for the Denver Pacific Railway, and since it could be obtained more 
easily with two Senators instead of two territorial Delegates in Con 
gress, Denver was active in the movement to hasten the admission of 
Colorado as a state. In a letter to the daily paper J. H. Morrison 
pressed the matter: 

The first bugbear, taxation, will be made up by increase of population and 
value of land. There is no community so oppressed as those whose pros 
perity is dried up by want of enterprise. Oregon runs her state government 
for $50,000 a year, and we can do it for less. As for a plan to get rid of 
Jerome Chaffee and John Evans as senators, I fear it will be more difficult. 
If they should resign, the people might reelect them. We might, however, 
make it effective by hiring some one to kill them. This could be justified 
on the same principle as that of the gentleman who proposes to kill his 
children in order to reduce the size of his family to suit the servant girl 
who objects to enter his services because the family is too large. Seriously, 
is it not time that the twaddle about men should cease and all of us go to 
work together for the general interests? 





I 



W 

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DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 161 

The revivified spirit of cooperation and enterprise that was moving 
the people of Denver so impressed the Kansas Pacific, which had been 
playing with the idea of changing its route and building to southern 
Colorado, that it now repeated its offers to build direct to Denver 
and asked what aid the city would give. But the Kansas Pacific pro 
moters were reminded, in a public meeting, of their broken promises ; 
they were told that Denver was determined to build its own road, and 
that while it would welcome the Kansas Pacific, the railway would 
have to provide its own funds for the extension. Building south from 
Cheyenne, the Denver Pacific entered into an agreement with Thomas 
Durant and Sidney Dillon of the Union Pacific by which these worthies 
promised to provide the money to complete the road when the Denver 
company had expended $500,000 on construction, and it was further 
agreed that the road would be leased to the Union Pacific. Ironically 
enough, an effort was also made to get Cheyenne to issue bonds to 
help the project, but that city's Council referred the matter to a com 
mittee which promptly forgot it. 

Colorado was not admitted to the Union until 1876, but her two 
territorial Delegates worked assiduously for her interests. They intro 
duced a bill to grant the Denver Pacific the same land-subsidy as the 
Union Pacific; the Kansas Pacific fought it violently until it was 
apparent that the bill would pass, when it withdrew its objections and 
allied itself with the Denver interests, with the result that both roads 
were permitted to bond themselves at $32,000 per mile. Meanwhile, 
the Denver Pacific was encountering fresh difficulties; it was unable 
to sell its $500,000 worth of Arapahoe County bonds, and Durant and 
Dillon made no move to fulfill their obligation to help build the road. 
When they finally pleaded financial inability to meet the contract, 
it was canceled, and the Denver Pacific prepared to complete the road 
itself. It increased its capital to $4,000,000, made a deal with the 
Kansas Pacific whereby both roads were enabled to finance their con 
struction, and, obtaining from the Kansas Pacific the assistance of 
General William J. Palmer, hastened the line into Denver. 

For the moment Denver determined to take the matter into her 
own hands and build her railroad to the north without outside help, 
to the present day when she is still working to add to the spokes in 
tlie wheel of national transportation of which she has made herself 



l62 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the center, one figure stands out as representative of her purpose and 
her achievement that of the late David H. Moffat. In 1867 Moffat 
was a slim stripling with a far-seeing eye, a practical mind, and bound 
less energy with which to carry his ideas into execution. Although 
never the president of the Denver Pacific, that position being ably 
filled by John Evans, one of the greatest of the early railroad-builders, 
who had succeeded Bela Hughes in that office, Moffat was from first 
to last one of its stanchest supporters; as its treasurer he grappled 
successfully with the difficult problem of its finance, and during his 
connection with it he acquired that grasp of Colorado's transportation 
problems which was to make him one of the country's outstanding 
railroad-builders. The story of Denver's rise to power and of her 
struggle to win a place on the direct east and west transcontinental 
railroad route is also the story of David H. Moffat. 

Early in life the Western fever took possession of him, and while 
still a boy he longed to share in the bright fortune of the frontier. 
At 1 6 he had left his home in Washingtonville, Orange County, New 
York, journeyed as far west as Des Moines, Iowa, and become teller 
in the bank of the A. J. Stevens Company. A few years later he moved 
on to Omaha, became cashier of the Bank of Nebraska, and built up 
a paper fortune in real-estate speculation, a fortune which quickly 
vanished when the bottom fell out of the boom that George Francis 
Train started when the Union Pacific picked Omaha as its eastern 
terminus. With little formal education, Moffat nevertheless had a taste 
for reading, and this attracted him to the book business. When the 
gold excitement was at its beginning in the Pike's Peak country, he 
formed a partnership with C. C. Woolworth at St. Joseph, Missouri, 
to start a book and stationery store in Denver, Woolworth to stay 
east as buyer and Moffat to go west as storekeeper. 

On St. Patrick's Day, 1860, a young man of 21, Moffat arrived in 
Denver with four wagonloads of supplies, one of which was driven by 
himself. And surely the town that greeted him was picturesque enough 
to satisfy the adventurous spirit of any young man. The clatter of 
wagons and the noise of drivers bawling at ox-teams and swearing at 
mules filled the congested streets ; for so heavy was traffic to Denver 
that the overland express reported 1,200 wagons, Pike's Peak bound, 
passed in a single day and night. Miners and tenderfeet from the 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 163 

East jostled each other In the stores and saloons, some busy buying 
outfits to go prospecting or arranging for the storage of their heavy 
luggage while they took reconnaissance trips into the mountains, others 
idly listening to the stories of gold-strikes which were everywhere 
the subject of lively conversation. Gold was the one matter of im 
portance to Denver, and even the new-comer could believe the stories 
he heard when he saw that every man carried a buckskin pouch of the 
precious dust and every merchant had a gold-dust scale on his counter : 
the buyer passed his pouch to the vender, who dribbled out the dust 
on the scales to the proper amount ; it was said that the waste by this 
method was 25 per cent, and the dealer had only himself to blame 
if he received too little dust to pay for his wares. During the week 
of Moffat's arrival the town was entertained by a duel between two 
officers of the Territory of Colorado, attended by 800 interested spec 
tators, and the conviction and hanging of two murderers who were 
tried by a miners' court. 

Moffat opened his stationery store on Eleventh Street below Lari 
mer, later moving to Fifteenth and Blake, and shortly became assistant 
postmaster and agent for the telegraph company. Since every one in 
Denver expected or professed to expect letters with every pony ex 
press, his store soon became a center of activity, being surrounded 
daily by crowds of miners waiting for the mail to arrive. The telegraph 
business flourished also, although at first there was no direct line to 
Denver and messages came by horse from Julesburg, the rate for 
ten words from New York being $9.10, and from St. Louis, $7.50. 
Moffat took subscriptions for Eastern newspapers and delivered them 
in person for 25 cents per copy; and he often brought Editor Byers 
copies of St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Chicago newspapers that came 
ahead of the mail-coach on his own wagons. An example of his busi 
ness acumen was his early recognition that the cabins of the town 
needed some more attractive decoration than newspapers pasted on 
the walls ; he ordered 6,000 rolls of wall-paper and sold them like the 
proverbial hot cakes. 

"Frank, engaging, willing to accommodate, and with an unlimited 
capacity for friendship," there was never any doubt as to Moffat's suc 
cess as a storekeeper or his popularity as a member of the community. 
Although he remained a partner in the stationery business until 1870 



164 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and was for six years assistant postmaster and telegraph agent, he 
returned to his first profession of banking in 1867, when he was ap 
pointed cashier of the First National Bank. Founded by authorization 
of the Comptroller of the Currency in 1865, it had no success until 
Moffat took charge, after which it steadily increased in importance 
until it became the most powerful financial institution on the Plains. 

As the Denver Pacific approached the city from the north, the peo 
ple's enthusiasm grew; every one of them had a stake in the 
success of the enterprise, and most of them had contributed in cash. 
Every ear was waiting for the sound of the locomotive whistle, and 
one day in the spring of 1870 the newspaper announced that "the first 
locomotive ever heard in Denver was reported Tuesday evening. The 
wind was blowing in the right direction, and those who heard it were 
where no local noises interfered, so it is not a stretch of the imagina 
tion to believe they were not deceived." On June 22, 1870, the town 
went wild when the long-expected first locomotive, named the "David 
H. Moffat," steamed into Denver, and the eager crowds swarmed to 
greet "the first engine ever seen in these parts." The pioneers who 
had spent painful weeks crossing the prairies with ox-teams had seen 
no locomotives since they left the Missouri, and many of them had 
never expected to see another; they crowded around the marvel, 
examining every part with the pleased curiosity of children. 

With the coming of the "David H. Moffat," 12 years after the first 
discoveries of gold, Denver definitely emerged from the village class 
and was on her way to becoming a city. People stopped moving to 
Cheyenne or elsewhere ; they began building more costly houses, and 
the town took on an air of permanence; water flowed through the 
streets, trees were planted, the extraordinarily brilliant green lawns 
of Denver began to flourish ; there was a feeling of solid confidence 
in the future and a new zest in living in the Mile-High City. In Au 
gust, 1870, the Kansas Pacific was opened, giving Denver two connec 
tions with the East, the last 150 miles of track having been laid in 
four months according to some authorities, in 92 working days. 
After this achievement General Palmer entertained the leading citizens 
at Chapiot's restaurant and provided a dinner for the workmen which 
included California fruits, champagne, and ice-cream. He was free 
then to turn his attention to the building of his own road, the Denver 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 165 

and Rio Grande. Even after his brilliant achievement in completing 
the Kansas Pacific and Denver Pacific and adjusting the business 
arrangements between the two, the Denver men who were his guests 
that day probably looked at the dashing young General a bit askance, 
for, as the Denver historian, Smiley, says,* "While the Denver people 
of that period believed almost anything within reason were possible, 
if guided by the indomitable captains of that time, most of them 
thought Palmer's enterprise was rather outside the borderline of rea 
son, and not a few regarded it as a wild project that would bring 
financial ruin to every man who became an owner in it, and that if 
the road were built even no farther than the southern limits of Colo 
rado, it would not be long operated before starvation would cause 
its abandonment." 

At about this time a visitor to Denver, A. K. McClure, wrote of his 
impressions of the growing city in Three Thousand Miles through the 
Rockies : 

Denver is a clever place, and has clever, substantial thrifty people. I have 
seen no place west of the Mississippi that equals it in the elements of 
positive prosperity. They have gone through the severest ordeal, and have 
come out purified in the crucible of sad experience. They have seen the 
day when gamblers, cut-throats, and thieves controlled everything elected 
their municipal officers, possessed the wealth of the city, intimidated the 
officers of the law, and held high, carnival in their work of robbery and 
death. But crime culminated, as il! ever does, and gave birth to vigilance 
committees, which made a number of the most desperate outlaws dance 
jigs upon nothing on the hill hard by! ... Two years ago they had pretty 
well banished the characters dangerous to the peace and safety of the 
citizens; but the orderly gamblers still controlled the municipality, had 
vast wealth, and pursued their shameless vocations in open day. They had 
their gambling-houses in some of the best buildings and business localities 
of the city, conducted them in view of every passer-by, just like merchants 
and tradesmen, had bands of music playing in front of the doors to entice 
the stranger, and were most prosperous. Indeed, so powerful were they at 
one time, that they controlled the legislature something after Pennsyl 
vania fashion. . . . Last winter a year the growing morality of Denver rose 
up against the gamblers, and drove them out. They still doubtless remain 
in some numbers, but they dare not expose their business to the public 
gaze, and they are under as wholesome restraint as in our best-governed 

* Jerome C. Smiley, Semi-Centennial History of the State of Colorado (Chicago, 
Lewis Publishing Company, 1913). 



166 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

cities. To-day Denver is as free from open outrages upon public morals as 
any other Western place of the same size. Indeed, I regard it as far in 
advance of most of them. In Omaha the two most attractive and courted 
ladies at the most fashionable hotel in the place were, when I was there, 
known only as "Mrs. Faro' 7 and "Mrs. Keno." Here they would not be 
tolerated in any circle outside of a church-pew or a horse-race. On Sunday 
the city was as quiet and orderly as Chambersburg, and the number of 
elegant churches, seminaries, schools, including a convent, reading-room, 
etc., leaves no room to doubt that Denver has a moral tone controlling its 
social life quite above the average of new cities. Upon the whole, I have 
found no place in the far West that appears to me so pleasant socially, 
and so substantial in its business as is Denver. True, it discounts its future 
development of the precious metals, but not more than is fully warranted. 

It now numbers probably eight thousand inhabitants; has seminaries 
and schools, nearly half a score of churches, three daily newspapers, an 
excellent reading-room, the finest stores I have seen west of Chicago, and 
a class of business men unsurpassed in character and attainments in any of 
our Eastern towns of the same size. It has the common fault of all Western 
cities. While they grow at all, they grow with feverish, unhealthy pace. 
Instead of systematically laboring to cheapen homes, business places, and 
products, they all struggle to swell the tide of inflation. In a few instances, 
it may be sustained by fortuitous circumstances ; but as a rule it results in 
financial disaster and in prostrating prices, business, and growth below 
their proper level. Denver was the creation of the mines. It now is floating 
on the waves of hope, and discounting all its prospects. If the mineral 
wealth of Colorado shall be mastered at an early day, then must Denver 
even surpass the expectations of its citizens; but if successive years of 
doubt and hope deferred should be the fate of Colorado, then must its 
decline be fearful and to very many fatal. I share fully the hope of the 
business men of Denver, that they have reached nearly or quite the depth 
of misfortune, and, while lots and rents are still at fabulous prices, I look 
for them to advance rather than decline. There is wealth enough to main 
tain the struggle until science shall pour into its lap the untold riches of 
the surrounding mountains, and the busy husbandman is yearly making 
the parched plains about the city to bloom and ripen with the golden 
fruits of the field. 

The high cost of the necessaries of life makes the wages of labor very 
high, and the development of the country has thus been greatly retarded. 
Ordinary farm-hands command from forty-five to sixty dollars per month, 
with boarding, and in the mining regions five dollars per day is a moderate 
price. But the highest rates, comparatively, are paid to domestics, for the 
reason that female servants are exceedingly scarce. But few laboring 
women can aff ord to come to the Territories, and those who happen here 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 167 

get fabulous wages. The most ordinary female house-servants get fifty 
dollars per month, and board, and good female cooks command from 
seventy-five to one hundred dollars per month. One hundred ordinarily 
good female servants could now find permanent employment in pleasant 
homes in Denver, at an average of twelve dollars per week and boarding; 
and three months' wages would pay their fare from the East to this city. 
Besides the high wages they can get, they are in equal demand in the 
matrimonial market. The adult unmarried population of the Territories is 
probably ten males to one female, and here, as elsewhere, people continue 
to be given in marriage. The importation of several hundred virtuous, in 
dustrious, single females into Colorado would be a great benefaction both 
to the females themselves and to the people of the Territory. 

It is true that I was not nearly so much crowded at church as I was at 
the race-course and at the theatre; but it is possible that most of the 
people were at the other churches. On Saturday a friend drove up to the 
hotel and invited Mrs. McClure and myself to accept a seat in his carriage 
for the races. His wife accompanied him, and on every side the youth and 
beauty of the city might have been seen driving in the same direction. 
Wishing to see Denver as it is, we concluded to go, and soon found our 
selves on a splendid course belonging to the Agricultural Society, inclosed 
by a concrete wall, and cleverly filled with as fine turn-outs as could be 
displayed in any of the inland cities of Pennsylvania. Nor was the crowd 
confined to the elegant and fashionable. Here was a rude mountaineer on 
an Indian pony, with spurs something after the fashion of a cogged cart 
wheel; there was one on an obstinate mustang, with blanket and buffalo 
coat; and there were hundreds of others, from regular sports, boys and 
men, to the staidest the city can afford. Deacons and vestrymen act as 
judges, and elders time the horses and make clever side bets on their 
favorites. The ladies have their watches, time the horses, and are most 
enthusiastic over the result. This may seem odd enough far East; but 
they tell me out here that they don't raffle, as the churches do East, and 
they thank the Lord that they are not as other men. 

Life in a city which combined the charms of the frontier West 
with a cosmopolitanism that earned it the title of "the American 
Paris" had a fascination that few could resist. When David H. Moffat 
first came to Denver, it was his intention to build up a fortune of 
$75,000 as soon as he could and return east to live on the income; 
he had no thought of staying in Colorado. But year by year he became 
more entangled in the enterprises of the new state and more enamored 
of her charms, and, like thousands of other Easterners who came 
west with the intention of staying only a few years, he found himself 



l68 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

becoming a thoroughgoing Westerner who could never be satisfied to 
live elsewhere. His rise in power was rapid. In 1868 he was one of the 
backers of the United States and Mexico Telegraph Company, which 
built a line from Denver to Santa Fe; in 1876 he was appointed 
receiver for the Kansas Pacific Railway; in 1880 he became president 
of the First National Bank; in 1885 he was one of the organizers 
of the Denver Clearing House. In 1884 he became president of the 
Denver and Rio Grande Railway, and during his six years in this 
position he constructed 682 miles of standard-gage and 296 miles of 
three-rail track and built the road up until it was known throughout 
the country for its splendid roadbed and rolling-stock. 

General Palmer may be called the railroad and promotional genius 
of Colorado during its early period, and David H. Moffat his legiti 
mate successor in the following decades. To Palmer's plans for pro 
viding a network of rails reaching back into the mountains to the 
mines and his schemes for the exploitation of natural resources, Moffat 
added another idea, the determination to make the dreams of the 
pioneers a reality and put Denver on the main transcontinental 
traffic line. From the time he first entered the railroad business in 
1867 to his death in 1911, this idea was in the back of his mind, and 
in his later years it became an obsession to which he sacrificed every 
thing. 

Throughout his life Moffat envisioned Denver as the hub of a wheel 
through which should pass lines of transportation from Texas, Puget 
Sound, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, and Canada. In 1881 he 
began one of these spokes which was to reach tide-water in Texas, 
the Denver and New Orleans Railroad, later the Colorado and South 
ern ; and, with Grenville M. Dodge to help him, he built the line from 
Denver to Fort Worth. He built the Denver, South Park and Pacific 
to tap the rich mining resources of Leadville and bring them directly 
to Denver in competition with the Denver and Rio Grande. At the 
time of the Aspen mining boom he built the Aspen branch of the 
Denver and Rio Grande, and when there was a similar boom at 
Creede, he suggested that a branch be built to the town over the 
mountains from Wagon Wheel Gap. The directors laughed at the idea, 
and Moffat replied, "All right. I'll build it myself." When he did, it 
proved so profitable that the railroad was glad to take it off his hands. 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 169 
The directors laughed again when he suggested building to the boom 
town of Cripple Creek, again he built the road himself, again it was 
a success, and the Denver and Rio Grande took it over. He also 
personally built the railroad from Boulder to the Marshall coal-banks. 
In all these new mining camps Moffat bought properties and became 
a leading mine-operator. He took fortunes out of such well-known 
mines as the Maid, Henriette, Resurrection, and Tabor's Little Pitts 
burgh at Leadville; the Caribou at Boulder; the Holy Moses at 
Creede; and the Victor, Anaconda, and Golden Cycle at Cripple 
Creek; and he was the first to use the cyanide process of gold- 
extraction invented by the Colorado engineer Philip Argall. Where 
he led, investors followed, and the First National Bank and the 
Moffat interests came to be synonymous with financial stability and 
success. 

In the panic of 1893, preceding which the price of silver began Its 
toboggan-slide and during which scores of Colorado banks failed, 
Moffat stood firm. He liquidated $2,000,000 worth of his own govern 
ment bonds and put the money into his bank; when others were 
calling loans and foreclosing mortgages, he extended credit, with the 
result that not one of his customers failed. A story is told of the 
president of the First National Bank of Fort Collins, who came to him 
with a grip full of gilt-edged securities to borrow money, saying, "I 
have never done business with you but I need your help." Moffat 
swept the securities aside. "Put them away," he said. "I know your 
bank. Go back to Fort Collins, and if you need help, telegraph. I 
will send you a telegram stating that the First National Bank of Fort 
Collins will never go under until the First National Bank of Denver 
does. You can paste that notice on your front door." 

Like E. H. Harriman, Moffat's idea of operating a railroad property 
was to spend money on it until it was in the best possible condition, 
to shorten routes and reduce grades and so cut operating expenses. 
By thus postponing dividends in the early years, he would prepare 
for vastly greater earning-power and increased value in the future. 
Acting on this principle, he completed the change of the Denver and 
Rio Grande from narrow gage to standard gage, and then made the 
startling proposal that the road spend from $8,000,000 to $16,000,000 
to push the line straight through the Rockies from Denver. But again 



1 70 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the directors laughed, and again it was left to Moffat to do it himself. 

Years passed. The Moffat interests had become the most powerful 
in the state, and Moffat was truly an empire-builder; he controlled 
mines, railroads, power-projects, the Denver City Tramway, the Den 
ver Water Works ; he was one of the owners of the Fourth National 
and Western National banks of New York and a principal stockholder 
in the Equitable Life Insurance Company. He was a potent influence in 
politics and had several times refused to listen to suggestions that he be 
nominated for United States Senator. One day he showed a friend 
credits in New York banks for $7,000,000. "If I had that much/ 5 said 
his visitor, "I wouldn't do another thing for the rest of my life." And 
Moffat replied, with the spirit of the restless frontiersman who had 
come from New York to Iowa, to Nebraska, to Colorado, and had 
built an empire there, "I am not satisfied to do nothing. I want to be 
doing something new building or developing. That is the way I get 
my pleasure out of life." 

So, at 63, he startled Denver by announcing that at last the city was 
to have its direct route to the West, that he was going to build a rail 
road straight through the Rockies, tapping a vast undeveloped coal 
and mineral area in the northwestern part of the state that was without 
a railroad, and making Denver the great transcontinental transporta 
tion center of the Plains. Characteristically, he announced the name 
of the manager of this project without consulting him. When this man, 
Sylvester T. Smith, read the news in the paper, he hurried to Denver, 
and, thinking of the tremendous difficulties of the task, to master 
which some twenty railroad schemes had been launched, fourteen 
routes surveyed, and before the magnitude of which two national 
railways had recoiled in dismay, he said to Moffat, "I would not build 
that road now if I were in your place. It is going to be a very heavy, 
expensive piece of construction." But Moffat shook his head and 
replied, "I am going to build this road because I want to develop 
Colorado, and you are going to build it for me." So the Denver and 
Northwestern Pacific, later the Denver and Salt Lake, was organized 
with a capital of $20,000,000, and the project was commenced. 

Now began the most complex, involved, heart-breaking series of dis 
couragements that ever faced a railroad-builder. Estimating that the 
road to Salt Lake would cost $16,000,000, plus $4,000,000 for tunnels, 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 171 

and arranging with Senator William A. Clark that the line should join 
with his Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railway to reach the Pacific Coast, 
Moffat, in 1902, went to Providence and enlisted the aid of Marsden 
L. Perry and the Boissevain family of Holland. But he reckoned 
without those giants of the railroads, George J. Gould and E. H. Harri- 
man, who now controlled the transcontinental routes and who wished 
no new line begun that would make the distance to the Pacific Coast 
shorter than by their own roads. Since Harriman owned land-filings on 
part of the route over which Senator Clark's line would pass, he soon 
persuaded him that he must not cooperate with Moffat, and this outlet 
to the coast was lost. Pressure was likewise brought to bear on the 
Providence and Holland interests, and they withdrew their support. 

At this time the three railroad barons of the West were James J. 
Hill, Harriman, and Gould. Hill, who controlled the Great Northern, 
running from St. Paul to Puget Sound, was not unfriendly to Moffat, 
but he was engaged in a fight with Harriman of the Union Pacific, who 
had just bought the Southern Pacific. To checkmate Harriman in the 
north, Hill bought the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Harriman then 
bought heavily of Northern Pacific stock and formed a pool, the 
Northern Securities Company, to control both the Northern Pacific 
and the Great Northern. This corporation was later dissolved by decree 
of the United States Supreme Court ; but in the preceding warfare Hill 
had no time for the Moffat road, and afterwards he could not be again 
interested in its development. The prospect of opening up enormous 
new coal-fields did not appeal to other capitalists who owned the estab 
lished coal-producing properties ; so half a dozen men who dictated the 
railroad affairs of the nation, and who were indignant that Moffat 
should plan to build a new national railway without their consent, 
passed the word to Wall Street, and he was everywhere met with closed 
doors. In this extremity he drew on his own fortune and pushed the 
road to Yarmony, high up in the Rockies, 146 miles from Denver. 

Meanwhile, Harriman interests were active, inducing various indi 
viduals to file mining claims on the site of Moffat's proposed tunnel 
and holding up his progress at the narrow, red-stone gorge of Gore 
Canon, a right of way absolutely necessary for him to own if he was to 
pierce the Rockies. There was an error in the railroad's filing which 
gave Moffat a route over the top of the mountains instead of through 



172 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the Canon, and this he maintained was due to an error in the govern 
ment surveys. But suit was started by the newly organized New 
Century Light and Power Company, which had filed on the land for a 
reservoir site. Stormy legal battles followed, and when the New Cen 
tury Company saw it was about to be worsted, it turned its rights over 
to the United States Reclamation Service and asked it to fight the case 
as a matter of public welfare. So strong and determined were the 
interests opposing Moffat that a succession of manufacturing interests 
in the East declared that the power was needed for great industrial 
enterprises, and they even induced the Los Angeles Chamber of Com 
merce to protest on the ground that the water was needed for Southern 
California. But borings showed that no dam could be constructed there, 
for there was no bed-rock for no feet, and the Government's case 
crumbled ; meanwhile Moffat had bought the rights that the Burlington 
road had obtained through the Canon long ago in the Eighties. Moffat 
was further embarrassed by a mysterious run on the First National 
Bank, which the newspapers said was engineered by Harriman and 
Gould. Finally, President Roosevelt sent his confidential agent, Carl 
Ewald Grunsky, who had represented him in the Panama Canal di 
plomacy, to investigate and hear both sides. At the hearing which 
followed, at the White House, when Moffat charged collusion between 
the rival railways and the Reclamation Service, Roosevelt showed that 
he understood the situation, for when the government engineers arose 
to testify, he remarked, "Oh yes, you represent the power companies 
and the opposing railroads, do you not?" After the hearing he ordered 
the Government to relinquish all claims on Gore Canon, and Moffat 
was again free to go ahead. 

In 1904 he reached Corona, altitude 11,660 feet, but, on account of 
the terrible snows, it was almost impossible to run trains there in 
winter. The construction of the Moffat road had taxed the engineering 
genius of the country ; precipitous heights, narrow canons, winter bliz 
zards had all held back construction, but it had gone forward steadily, 
"piercing mountains of solid granite, crawling along the eyebrow of an 
abyss and gliding among summer flowers and perpetual snow along the 
summit of the continental divide, the highest standard gauge railroad 
in the world." It was draining away the Moffat fortune, and still it had 
not reached the rich coal-fields of Routt and Moffat counties, which 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 173 

government reports showed to be as great as those of Pennsylvania, 
with natural outcrops 80 feet thick, and the great areas of grazing- and 
farm-land as good as any in Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho. And so 
there was no income-producing traffic. But his lone fight must have 
excited the admiration of Harriman, even if it made him angry. It is 
said that he called Moffat to New York and told him, "Moffat, I will 
help you build the Denver and Northwestern. I will give you fifty per 
cent interest for the money you have put into the road and will raise 
all the funds to take it to Salt Lake. I will take all the bonds and give 
you fifty per cent of the stock." Whereupon Moffat replied, "Mr. 
Harriman, do you think I am a fool or a knave ? I refuse your proposi 
tion. I know you better now than I have ever known you." 

Construction went on, men were lowered into Gore Canon by ropes, 
and the perilous job of laying the rails there was completed in 1907. A 
junketing party of Denver business men to the end of the track fol 
lowed, but it was a forlorn gesture, for Moffat had reached the end of 
his money and could get no more. Failing to get business support, he 
was reduced to making pleas on personal grounds, and when his erst 
while friends, afraid to buck the powerful opposing financial interests, 
turned him down, he was hurt and came to hold himself aloof from his 
old associates. 

But if most of the Denver business men could not see the Moffat 
road, there was one other old man who still had enough vision to share 
Moffat's dreams. Colonel D. C. Dodge, General Palmer's adjutant in 
all his railway-building and management, had never seen the rich 
country that the line was to tap, and when Moffat took him there, he 
became enthusiastic. An old war-horse of 70, he returned to Denver 
and began a campaign for funds, heading the list with $100,000, and so 
stirred the city that an additional 1,500,000 was raised and the line 
pushed on to Steamboat Springs. 

Moffat still fought for Eastern aid, and in 1910 he thought that, with 
Harriman's death, the old opposition was passing, and also the opposi 
tion of Denver interests, as a result of which his home town had 
supplied him with less aid, he said, than had Colorado Springs and 
Arizona. The local opposition was jealousy, he claimed, 

pin headed jealousy and nothing more. Here was I helping to build up the 
city and to increase the value of real estate in Denver, while the interests 



174 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

which could profit most were against me. It looked as if they feared I 
would be regarded as a great man, whereas I had no idea of greatness when 
I undertook the work. I wanted to do it for the good of the state and 
nothing more. As to the railroads, the Denver and Rio Grande opposed it 
because it would cut off 200 miles between Denver and Salt Lake, the 
Union Pacific didn't do it because of their government subsidies and the 
Burlington was scared by the construction cost. But the old opposition is 
disappearing. The interests in Wall Street see that I have built over the 
mountains, which they never thought I would be able to do, and I guess 
they have come to the conclusion that it will be of no avail to oppose me 
further. I have put my own money into the venture because I had confi 
dence in it, and the results have demonstrated that I was right. I am going 
ahead with my plans for building the big tunnel. The Moffat Road today 
is a success and I expect to live to see it in operation between Denver 
and Salt Lake. 

But alas for the hopes of the sturdy old lion ! Moffat was not to live 
to see his road pushed through to Salt Lake, nor was it to be finished 
for many weary years. On a trip to New York, seeking funds, he died 
in the Hotel Belmont on March 18, 1911, just 51 years and a day after 
his first arrival in Denver ; and almost his last words were, "If I suc 
ceed in putting Denver on a through transcontinental line, I will then 
think that I have done something for my state." All his fortune, esti 
mated at $20,000,000, had gone, $9,000,000 of it directly into the road, 
the first 124 miles of which had eaten up $12,000,000. But his in 
domitable spirit had inspired others to pick up the work where he left 
it and to share the difficulties he had fought against; so, through an 
incredible maze of obstacles, the building of the Moffat road went 
forward. 

Soon after Moffat's death, at Denver's behest the State of Colorado 
undertook to complete the project by building the great Moffat Tunnel 
north of the Berthoud Pass, thus eliminating the worst of the snow 
hazard and providing an open gateway through Colorado. This step 
had previously been held up because of lack of funds, but in 1911 
bonds to the amount of $4,000,000 were authorized by the legislature. 
The opposition was so strong, however, that Governor John F. Shafroth 
failed to sign the bill within 30 days, thus returning it to the people for 
vote, and the measure was lost. In 1913 Newman Erb of the Pere 
Marquette Railroad promised to advance half the funds necessary to 
push the road to Craig if Denver people would subscribe the rest, but 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 175 

he failed to carry out his agreement. Then the City and County of 
Denver voted bonds to build the tunnel ; but an injunction was issued 
restraining the city, and the case was carried to the Supreme Court of 
Colorado, where the bonds were held invalid. Erb repeated his former 
promise, $1,500,000 was raised in Denver, and again Erb failed to pro 
duce his share and withdrew. The Moffat road went into receivership, 
investors lost heart, and the United States Railroads War Board was 
asked to take over the road. When snow blockades stopped the trains, 
the Board advised that operations be terminated, but it finally assigned 
the line to the Burlington system. A State Railroad Commission was 
appointed in 1919 by Governor Oliver H. Shoup, and Denver supplied 
it with $ 1 0,000 to survey in different sections of the state the routes 
for three possible tunnels through the mountains, one of which was the 
Moffat Tunnel. Speakers were sent through the state advocating the 
Tri-tunnel bonds, which the legislature authorized the people to vote 
upon, but Pueblo, which would be removed from the main line of the 
Denver and Rio Grande should the Moffat Tunnel be built, opposed 
the bonds so strongly that they were rejected by 10,000 votes. Governor 
Herbert S. Hadley then suggested the formation of an improvement 
district covering the territory to be benefited by the tunnel, but the 
opposing railroad interests knifed that. 

A new figure now in the picture was William C. Evans, son of 
Governor Evans, who had succeeded Moffat as president of the Denver 
Tramway Company. Since his father and most of the other old-timers 
who had been associated with the Denver and Northwestern project 
had died, he determined to carry on the fight in their stead. A creditor's 
suit had been filed by the Bankers Trust Company of New York and 
others, and without Evans' assistance, it appeared that the road would 
be junked forever. In order to prevent a sale to any rival road which 
might stop construction work, the majority stockholders, headed by 
Evans, in 1917 organized a voting pool and pledged themselves not to 
sell for 10 years. This had to receive the approval of representatives of 
the bondholders, the Bankers Trust Company and the Seaboard Na 
tional Bank of New York. At first they were skeptical, but finally, after 
Denver men had told them the whole tragic story of Moffat's fight with 
the other railroads and all the crises that had been weathered, the 
directors of these banks approved the plan, warning the Denver men, 



176 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

however, that they would give them no more financial or even moral 
support. 

William R. Freeman, who had been appointed receiver jointly with 
Charles Boettcher, instituted economies in the operation of the Moffat 
road, invented an ice-machine to clear the tracks, and, since the terri 
tory served by the road was beginning to produce coal, oil, and moun 
tain head-lettuce, he got considerable traffic and made a respectable 
financial showing. But the great Moffat Tunnel would still have had to 
wait had it not been for a disaster which stirred the whole country. 
When the Arkansas River overflowed its banks, June 3, 1921, spreading 
death and destruction, it completely inundated the city of Pueblo, and 
it was at once apparent that the state would have to step in and control 
the river. When Pueblo interests called for a special flood-conservation 
session of the legislature, Denver demanded that the Moffat Tunnel 
District be included, and this was done. It was soon apparent that no 
flood-conservation bill could be passed unless a bill creating the tunnel 
district were also passed; so Pueblo at last bowed to the inevitable, 
and the district was created, the bill being signed by the governor on 
May 12, 1922. A taxpayer's suit brought against the act was hurried to 
the United States Supreme Court, which sustained the measure in 1923. 
Bonds to the amount of $6,720,000 were issued and sold at a premium, 
and the driving of the tunnel commenced. 

In the late summer of 1923 construction began on the 6.i-mile Moffat 
Tunnel, the longest on the American continent, which was to shorten 
the distance between the two coasts by 173 miles, or half a day's 
traveling time, and reduce the maximum transcontinental grade to two 
per cent instead of the prevailing three per cent. Paralleling the rail 
road tunnel and built simultaneously with it was a pioneer bore to 
provide the city of Denver with water from the western slope. The 
open cut at West Portal was started on August 25, 1923. The Water 
Tunnel was under ground on September 12 at West Portal, and at East 
Portal on October 13. Contractors actually started work on October 
2, 1923. With the beginning of construction the physical difficulties 
encountered were fully equal to the financial difficulties that had pre 
ceded them. Solid granite had to be blasted away by the thousand tons, 
quaking mud was encountered, hot-water springs at 100 degrees F. 
boiled out and scalded the workmen, an entire lake drained through a 




THE DENVER CIVIC CENTER 

Courtesy of the Colorado Association. 




THE EAST PORTAL OF THE MOFFAT TUNNEL 

The Burlington stream-lined train "Zephyr" is entering the tunnel on its first 
transcontinental run over the Moffat route, June 16, 1934- Courtesy of the Chicago, 
Burlington and Quincy Railroad. 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 177 

fissure of the mountain. At one time the tunnel workings were inun 
dated with a flow of 3,100 gallons of water a minute, and when a bliz 
zard broke the power-lines, and the pumps stopped working, the men 
worked for days in water up to their waists. Old and tried tunneling 
methods failed. Tough Douglas-fir timbers splintered like matches 
under the pressure, and timbermen and miners quit the job in fear. 
Among the labor recruited during the winter were the farmers of the 
mountain valleys who raised head-lettuce, and to the regular workers 
the derisive appellation "head-lettuce miner" became a fighting term. 
Finally, at the point of despair over the difficulties encountered in 
excavating, George Lewis, the engineer, regained hope when one night 
he suddenly remembered a house-moving operation he had seen and 
from it drew the idea of building a traveling cantilever girder which 
should advance into the tunnel and support the rock while operations 
went on. Although he was a poor man, he told the tunnel commission 
that if they would build this machine, they could take the cost of it 
out of his salary if it failed to work. Moving on tracks, overhanging 
14 to 20 feet of the excavated tunnel, this invention was the first device 
they had found that was able to prevent cave-ins ; it proved to be a 
complete success, and again the building went forward. 

In 1925 funds ran out. Further powers of taxation were needed, but 
the tunnel commission feared to bring the matter before the Ku Klux 
Klan-controlled legislature ; so they met in secret for months, exhausted 
legal counsel, and finally decided that they had a right to issue supple 
mental bonds. When this was done, taxpayers objected, and a state 
wide uproar followed. Harassed by lawsuits, beset by engineering 
difficulties, and opposed by strong political factions, the commission 
nevertheless pushed the water tunnel on ; and at last, nearly five years 
after it was legally authorized, and at a cost of $15,700,000, it was com 
pleted. On February 18, 1927, President Coolidge touched a button 
setting off 124 shots of dynamite, the last rock wall in the water tunnel 
fell away, and the construction gangs clambered through. "Who in hell 
built this tunnel?" yelled the West Portal gang. "We built the tunnel," 
shouted the East Portal gang. "We did, by gosh," yelled the West 
Portal. And they discovered that the two apertures were in perfect 
alignment, a tribute to the ability of the engineers who supervised the 
work. Even on this auspicious occasion the elements that had been 



178 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

conquered played a final hand by enveloping the special train in such a 
vortex of snow that the honor guests could hardly get into the tunnel 
they had come to dedicate. The blizzard shut down the power-lines and 
stopped the pumps, and water gushed into the tunnel. Rotary plows 
whirled the snow off the tracks only to have it close in just as heavily 
a moment later. The party of a hundred who had come up for the 
ceremonies were hauled through the worst drifts by horses, and they 
clambered into the tunnel cold and wet, dressed in slickers and rubber 
boots. 

The worry and work, indeed, were far from over. The Water Tunnel 
had been completed, and a small bore for much of the railroad tunnel 
had been finished, but the excavation for the enlargement and com 
pletion of the railroad tunnel brought many problems. Among them was 
that of "swelling ground," where the tunnel floor arched upward and 
could be controlled only by steel girders; and it was July 7, 1927, 
before the railroad tunnel was holed through. The first train passed 
through the tunnel on February 27, 1928. Difficulties then developed in 
getting any railroad to lease the tunnel, and it was not until the 
depression year of 1932, when the Reconstruction Finance Corporation 
was created, that any road felt justified in building the line westward. 
In that year the Corporation loaned funds to the Denver and Rio 
Grande to build the Orestod-Dotsero cut-off, connecting the tunnel with 
its line on the western slope of the Rockies, substantially cutting the 
time and distance between Denver and Salt Lake, and giving Denver, 
at last, her place in the sun of transcontinental transportation. Up to 
the last the Moffat road lived up to its reputation as a trouble-maker ; 
for as late as September, 1932, it was discovered that part of the right 
of way was still owned by an organization, headed by a Tammany 
politician, which had filed on the tunnel years before when Harriman 
was harassing Moffat. 

Ultimately it was planned to build a direct independent line straight 
west from the Moffat Tunnel to Salt Lake City, but since the financing 
of this long line would be difficult, the 38-mile cut-off connecting with 
the Denver and Rio Grande on the western slope was decided upon as 
the most practical method of utilizing the tunnel. On June 16, 1934, 
the 38-mile gap between Dotsero and Orestod having been closed, the 
first regular passenger train moved through the Moffat Tunnel, and 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 179 

east and west service was inaugurated by the Denver and Rio Grande 
Western and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. On that day the 
graceful aluminum "Zephyr/' the Burlington's new high-speed train, 
flashed over the track, part of which followed what had once been a 
Ute Indian trail, and slid smoothly through the mountains that genera 
tions of engineers had declared to be impassable. And Ralph Budd, 
president of the Burlington lines, declared that this was probably the 
last transcontinental railroad route that would ever be built across 
the Rockies. 

As the people of Denver watch the trains roll over their direct east 
and west transcontinental* highway, and as the passengers look out on 
the incomparable grandeur of the country it traverses, they must thank 
the indomitable spirit of David EL Moffat for the benefits they are 
enjoying. It was his work that subdued the Rockies at their most 
formidable point; it was his work, and that of others like him, that 
gave Denver the transportation and power and prestige that have made 
her a great city instead of a cross-roads hamlet. He gave the city an 
outlet which can never be controlled by any single railroad, a public 
gateway constructed by Denver capital, controlled by Denver men, 
supported by the taxation of thousands of humble property-owners who 
throughout the whole difficult operation kept a singularly strong faith 
in the project. It is indeed a tribute to Denver's spirit as well as to 
Moffat's vision. 

Always generous, David Moffat remembered his boyhood home, and 
perhaps his own lack of formal education, when he gave a public 
library to his birthplace of Washingtonville, New York, and a pipe- 
organ to the church at Blooming Grove that he attended as a boy. 
During his lifetime he gave $100,000 to one of the faithful officers of 
his bank and $75,000 to another ; and when a head waiter at the Hotel 
Belmont in New York expressed the wish that he could live on a 
Western farm, Moffat surprised him the next morning with a deed for 
a $15,000 ranch in Routt County. But his great generosity did not lie 
in individual benefactions or the support of institutions. It was his 
gift to the country he loved Colorado. To further its development 
and the prosperity of its people all of his fortune went back into the 
soil of the state, so that he died a poor man. When a mining enginner 
once visited him in New York to interest him in the enormous profits to 



180 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

be made in West Virginia coal, he summed up his philosophy of giving 
thus: "When I was a young fellow, I went to Colorado, walking over 
the dusty plains, with very little cash in my possession. Denver was 
then a struggling village and I began in a very humble way to make my 
living. All I possess in the world to-day I made out there in those hills, 
and there is where it will all remain and be spent by me, for the 
welfare of Colorado. 57 

During his long career Moffat had managed or built nine railroads 
in Colorado, and he had held undisputed sway of tremendous public- 
utility interests affecting the welfare of the people of the state. Yet he 
hardly ever experienced public criticism, for the community held him 
in high regard as a man who, while advancing his own fortune, also 
advanced the common welfare. One who knew him well said of him, 
"His friendship is not so much the smiling as the helping turn. I speak 
not of what he gives away in charity. But in a straight business way, he 
has helped more men than any other man in Colorado. That would be 
little to say of him now, because he is the richest man in the state. But 
it could truly be said of him long before that came about and actually 
was said. To count David H. Moffat as a friend was not only an honor ; 
it was an intense joy." 

In the State Historical Museum there stands a silver cup almost as 
high as a man, its sides engraved with pictures of the tunnel project, 
Gore Canon, and the mining camps and cities of Colorado, scenes and 
achievements that were connected with the life of David H. Moffat. Its 
handles are appropriately fashioned into the leaves and acorns of the 
sturdy oak, and it is further embellished with the state flower, the 
columbine. The inscription reads: "Presented to David H. Moffat by 
his business associates of Denver, as a tribute to his energy as an 
empire builder, his loyalty to every interest of his adopted city and 
state, and, above all, to that broad citizenship that will remain an 
inspiration for all the years to come in the upbuilding of Denver and 
Colorado." 

The grit and determination of David Moffat and his willingness to 
devote everything he had to the completion of the one project dear to 
his heart is typical of the men who have made Denver. They wrested 
a city out of the dry prairies, built it strongly and beautifully, im 
ported and planted every one of the towering trees that shade its 



DENVER'S STRUGGLE FOR TRANSPORTATION 181 

streets, and by sheer force and magnetism made their city the center 
of the Rocky Mountains and the Plains. Their breezy recklessness and 
indifference to the quick turns of the wheel of fortune have given the 
golden city of the Rockies a dash and flavor which is as invigoratingly 
Western as the miner with his pan and the cowboy in his saddle. 
Fortunes have been made and lost there quickly ; men have been out at 
elbows one year and rolling in wealth the next ; life has always been 
mercurial, unconventional, bold. 

And certainly, if the tourist wants to see the grand mountain country 
of the pulp magazines the West "where men are men and God's good 
women grow" he can find it by traveling from Denver westward and 
then along the western slope of the Rockies. For there is an exhilarat 
ing land as wild and beautiful and remote as any celebrated by the 
writers of Western thrillers of whom, by the way, a large group live 
in Colorado. He will see the picturesque mining towns, their old brick 
buildings almost deserted among them Central City, on the eastern 
slope, where Denver people reopen the old Opera House every summer 
to regale the public with such old-fashioned treats as Camille, with 
Lillian Gish as the phthisical heroine. And Ouray, that gem of a town 
in a Tiffany setting of rock, high in the mountains, in whose near-by 
mines Tom Walsh made his fortune. And the limpid, peaceful head 
waters of the Colorado River, which glides through the mountains 
before it tears into the Grand Canon and rushes on to Boulder Dam, 
where it is now being impounded for diversion to the silver taps of 
Hollywood. 

From the heights of these mountains has poured the golden stream 
that has built the city of Denver, that has given her wealth and 
strength, that has erected her homes and caused her astonishingly vivid 
lawns to gleam in the sun, that has created the classic beauty of her 
symmetrical white Civic Center. It is to this wild, free Western country, 
with its bracing air, that Denver owes her greatest gift. For it has 
richly answered her plea, "Give me men to match my mountains," and 
the men have made her great. 



CHAPTER VIII 

WHAT THE GOLD-RUSH BROUGHT SAN FRANCISCO 

OF all the early Western cities, San Francisco was the one that 
had to fight least for its place in the sun. Always Lady Luck 
smiled upon her, and though her geographical position was not 
altogether favorable, she nevertheless became the beneficiary of all the 
rich commerce that flowed through the Golden Gate into one of the 
greatest natural harbors in the world. This vast harbor with its mile- 
wide gate curiously eluded the first five explorers who sailed along the 
coast of California, including Sir Francis Drake, who anchored at 
Drake's Bay a few miles to the north, a body of water which had 
previously been charted by the Spanish explorer Sebastian Rodrigues 
Cermeno and named Puerto de San Francisco. Probably the fogs ob 
scured the narrow entrance to the real Bay of San Francisco when the 
explorers sailed by. At any rate, it was not discovered until 1769, when 
the Spanish commandant e > Caspar de Portola, marched northward over 
the brown hills and, coming to the top of one of them, suddenly saw 
stretched out before him the polished silver sheet of that grand inland 
sea. But he did not recognize it as anything more than a body of 
water that inconveniently obstructed the approach to the Puerto de 
San Francisco a little farther north. 

Even to come within hailing distance of the Puerto de San Francisco 
gave the Spaniards a thrill, however, and Father Junipero Serra con 
sidered the event little short of a miracle. For when he had suggested 
to Spain's Viceroy in Mexico, Jose de Galvez, that one of the California 
missions be named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, that dignitary had 
replied, "If St. Francis desires a mission, let him show us his harbor." 
And now the exploring party had miraculously approached the port of 
the Seraphic Father. 

It was not until 1776 that the Spaniards decided that the shore of 
the large body of water was in reality the proper place for building the 

182 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 183 

mission to St. Francis. In that year it was established on the Laguna 
de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, the northernmost of a string 
of missions, a day's journey apart, extending along the King's High 
way, El Camino Real, south to San Diego. And Father Serra ex 
claimed, "Thanks be to God that now our Father St. Francis with the 
Holy Cross of the procession of missions has reached the farthest 
boundary of the California continent. To go farther he must have 
boats." The Mission Dolores still stands, having survived fire and 
earthquake, and so does the Spanish military reservation, the Presidio, 
founded at the same time by order of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, 
who was the first man to march over the desert from Mexico to Cali 
fornia. Crossing the burning waste from below what is now Tucson, 
Arizona, he reached the Bay of San Francisco in 1776, explored it, and 
returned to Mexico, leaving his lieutenant, Jose Joaquin Moraga, 
to found the presidio. So the first settlement on the Bay of San Fran 
cisco was established when the Liberty Bell was ringing in far-away 
Philadelphia. 

But the town of San Francisco finally grew up around neither of 
these landmarks. It was established, instead, to the east of the presidio, 
where foreigners began to erect their trading-houses on land which was 
covered with fragrant mint ; and it bore the name Yerba Buena, which 
is to say, "the good mint." At this time California was closed to 
Americans and other foreigners, though the Spanish Government was 
willing to accept those who became Spanish citizens, and to one such, 
John Augustus Sutter, a Swiss, it had granted an enormous tract of 
land on the Sacramento River. This amounted to nothing less than an 
empire, which Sutter ruled from his fort at what is now Sacramento, 
issuing his own money, maintaining his own soldiers, welcoming Ameri 
can emigrants, and becoming as rich as a king. The other feudal over 
lord of the region was General Don Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who 
had a similar empire north of the bay around what is now Sonoma arid 
the Valley of the Moon, the beautiful countryside where Jack London 
later lived and wrote. 

As the fame of California spread eastward, the United States Govern 
ment began to covet the Bay of San Francisco and to lay plans to 
possess it. With the revolution of 1821 California became Mexican 
territory, and a few years later the Mexican prefect, Jose Castro, was 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 185 

to write, not without reason, "These Americans are so contriving that 
some day they will build ladders to touch the sky and once in the 
heavens they will change the whole face of the universe and even the 
color of the stars." In 1843 seven thousand of them were at Independ 
ence, Missouri, ready to set out for the Pacific. In that year Captain 
John C. Fremont was sent to California on a supposedly peaceful scien 
tific exploration, but he carried a 1 2-pound howitzer, and his men were 
armed. In September, 1845, the Mexican Government issued an order 
that no more American emigrants should enter California and that 
those already there must depart the following spring. But it was too 
late ; the damage had been done, and nothing could stop the American 
flood. When spring came, a party of twenty-four Americans who did 
not want to leave California surrounded General Vallejo's house at 
Sonoma, took him prisoner, ran up their flag, which was adorned with 
the figure of a bear, on the Sonoma plaza, and declared a republic. On 
July 8, 1846, war having been declared between the United States and 
Mexico, Captain John B. Montgomery of the U. S. S. Portsmouth 
landed at Yerba Buena with seventy men and took possession. Three 
weeks later Elder Sam Brannan of the Mormon Church arrived with 
200 Mormons who had sailed from New York with instructions from 
Brigham Young to found a city on the Bay, but, finding the Americans 
in possession, he abandoned the project. On August 26 Washington A. 
Bartlett was appointed alcalde of Yerba Buena, and on the 30th of 
January, 1847, ke caused a notice to appear in Sam Brannan's new 
newspaper, the California Star, ordering the name changed to San 
Francisco. 

This strategic move was made just in time to save the name for the 
city, for General Vallejo and his friends had already laid out on the 
north side of the Bay, on the Straits of Carquinez, what he considered 
to be the ideal city and port, and he proposed to capitalize all the 
advertising and prestige given the Bay of San Francisco by calling his 
town Santa Francisca, after his wife, and centering all the shipping and 
commerce of the Bay there. When Bartlett anticipated him, however, 
he called his port after his wife's second name, Benicia, and there it 
remains to this day, with the near-by town of Vallejo a memento of 
the fiery old general who used to rule the north country. In later years 
General William T. Sherman, who was then a lieutenant of artillery 



l86 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

stationed in Monterey, writing in his memoirs concerning the "impu 
dence" of Bartlett in seizing upon this name for the village of Yerba 
Buena, added, 

This little circumstance was big with consequences. That Benicia is the 
best natural site for a city, I am satisfied; and had half the money and 
half the labor bestowed on San Francisco been expended at Benicia we 
should have at this day a city of palaces on the Carquinez Straits. The 
name of "San Francisco," however, fixed the city where it now is; for 
every ship in 1848-49 which cleared from any part of the world, knew the 
name of San Francisco Bay, but not Yerba Buena or Benicia; and, ac 
cordingly, ships consigned to California came pouring in with their con 
tents, and were anchored in front of "San Francisco!" 

So, on the south side of the Golden Gate, the narrow opening between 
the bay and the ocean, which Fremont said he named "Chrysophylae, 
or Golden Gate, for the same reason that the harbor of Constantinople 
was called Chrysoceras, or Golden Horn," the city of San Francisco was 
created. And Sam Brannan, the Mormon elder, became the first Yankee 
town-booster. Before he fell from grace and was accused of mishandling 
Mormon funds, he preached the first English sermon in the city and 
solemnized the first wedding under the American flag. After he had 
been tried by the first American jury, he set up the first flour-mill and 
began to publish the first newspaper, the California Star, of which he 
soon got out a special booster edition sent by Pony Express to the 
Missouri River to attract emigrants. Indeed, so ardent a promoter did 
Brannan become that he went into the desert to meet Brigham Young 
and direct his entire colony to California. But Brigham, struck with 
the beauty of Salt Lake and its geographical resemblance to the Prom 
ised Land of the Scriptures, refused to proceed further; and so Sam 
returned to California alone and set up as a merchant at San Francisco 
and at Sutter's Fort. A few months later, on January 24, 1848, just 
nine days after Mexico had ceded California to the United States, 
occurred the event that made Sam Brannan a rich man and San 
Francisco a world-famous city. 

When John Marshall looked into the mill-race of the uncompleted 
sawmill he was building for Sutter at Coloma, 40 miles above Sutter's 
Fort, and picked up a little piece of yellow gold, half the size of a pea, 
he performed the initial act in a drama which drew into itself the whole 
world. When his discovery was made known, it threw millions of men 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 187 

the world over into a fever of excitement and started the greatest move 
ment of people to a single goal that had taken place since the crusades 
of the Middle Ages. It destroyed the California that then existed, de 
spoiling the empires of Slitter and Vallejo and turning their lands over 
to hordes of Yankee squatters with no legal right to them. It caused the 
currency markets of the world to tremble, raised the United States to 
new heights as a monetary power, and attracted to California the 
adventurous men who were to develop her resources and to center the 
financial power and transportation systems of the entire West in the 
new city of San Francisco. 

Sutter dimly realized something of the sinister import in this dis 
covery as he and Marshall tested the rough gold behind bolted doors 
at New Helvetia. They read all they could find on the subject in an old 
encyclopaedia, and then they took an apothecary's scale with an equal 
weight of silver and the unknown metal in each pan and immersed it in 
water ; whereupon the yellow metal outweighed the silver, and Sutter 
said, "I believe this is the finest kind of gold." As soon as Marshall got 
back to Coloma, he made the Indian and white workers promise that 
they would keep the discovery a secret for six weeks, until the Brighton 
flour-mill, on which Sutter had expended $25,000, could be completed. 
But such a promise was, of course, useless. Mrs. Wimmer, the cook, 
who had tried out some of the gold in a lye-kettle when making soap 
and found it untarnished, told the story. And soon Sam Brannan, who 
was still the publisher of the Star even while in Sacramento, had the 
news at first hand from one of his flock who was a workman at the mill. 
When he dashed through the streets of San Francisco on horseback, 
bearing a flask of the precious metal and crying, "Gold, gold from the 
American River," the 200 inhabitants were in a fury of excitement, and 
two days later not a man who could get to the diggings remained in the 
deserted village. Sutter tells of his experience during the gold-rush in a 
sort of diary which he prepared in 1856 and sent to a friend: * 

March 7, 1848 

The first party of Mormons employed by me left for working and digging 
Gold and very soon all followed, and left me only the sick and lame 
behind. And at this time I could say that every body left me from the 

* Diary of Johann August Sutter (San Francisco, the Grabhorn Press, 1932). 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Clerk to the Cook. What for great Damages I had to suffer in my tannery 
which was just doing a profitable and extensive business and the vats was 
left filled and a quantity of half finished leather was spoiled, likewise a 
large quantity of raw hides collected by the farmers and of my own 
killing: The same thing was in every branch of business which I carried on 
at the time. I began to harvest my wheat while others was digging and 
washing Gold, but even the Indians could not be keeped longer at Work. 
They was impatient to run to the mines, and other Indians had informed 
them of the Gold and its Value; and so I had to leave more as % of my 
harvest in the fields. 

May 19, 1848 

The great Rush from San Francisco arrived at the fort, all my friends 
and acquaintances filled up the houses and the whole fort, I had only a 
little Indian boy to make them roasted Rips etc. as my Cooks left me like 
everybody else. The Merchants, Doctors, Lawyers, Sea Captains Merchants 
etc. all came up and did not know what to do, all was in a Confusion, all 
left their wives and families in San francisco, and those which had none 
locked their Doors, abandoned their houses, offered them for sale cheap, 
a few hundred Dollars House & Lot (Lots which are worth now $100,000 

and more) Some of the Merchants has been the most prudentest of 

the Whole ? visited the Mines and returned immediately and began to do a 
very profitable business, and soon Vessels came from everywherse with all 
Kind of Merchandise, the whole old trash which was laying for Years 
unsold, on the Coasts of South & Central America, Mexico, Sandwich 
Islands etc. All found a good market here. 

Some time in 1856 

People looked on my property as their own and in the winter of 1849 to 

1850, a great Number of horses has been stolen from me Nearly my 

whole Stock of Cattle has been Killed I need not mention again that 

all Visitors has always been hospitably received and treated. That all sick 
and wounded found always Medical Assistance, Gratis, as I had nearly all 
the time a Physician in my employ. ... I think how from all this you can 
form some facts and you can mention how thousands and thousands made 
their fortunes, from this Gold Discovery produced through my industry 
and energy, (some wise merchants and others in San Francisco called the 
building of this saw mill Sutter's folly) and this folly saved not only the 
Mercantile World from bankruptcy, but even our General Gov't. But for 
me it has turned out a folly, then without having discovered the Gold, I 
would have become the richest wealthiest man on the Pacific Shore. 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 189 

It took seven months for the news to reach New York, and at first it 
was not believed there. But the Army officers, Lieutenants Sherman 
and Richard B. Mason, sent to Washington by way of Panama a 
special courier loaded with samples from the diggings, including a tea- 
caddy containing 230 ounces of gold. When this exhibit finally arrived, 
President Polk, on December 5, nearly a year after the discovery, con 
firmed the news in a message to Congress, and the country went wild 
with excitement. Meanwhile, gold had been sent to Honolulu, and the 
vessels in port there had carried the news to Portland, Callao, Val 
paraiso, and Mexican ports, so that by October the gold-seekers were 
pouring in, and by January, 1849, there were 6,000 men in the diggings 
around Sacramento, and San Francisco had become a city of 2,000 
inhabitants. 

To profit by the traffic from New York to the gold-fields the Pacific 
Mail Steamship Company, which was organized in April, 1848, to ply 
around the Horn to the Columbia River, now changed its plans and 
sent its ships to California instead. Its first ship arrived in the bay in 
February, 1849, an d discharged 350 passengers at San Francisco. The 
crew promptly deserted, and it was with difficulty that the captain 
could pick up enough sailors to get out of the harbor. Desertion was 
popular with the soldiers too, and Sherman, with seven officers, pursued 
twenty-eight men of the Second Infantry who had decamped for tie 
mines and brought back twenty-seven. The next Pacific Mail steamer 
to arrive anchored alongside a man-of-war in the harbor which 
guarded the vessel to prevent the crew from deserting. 

By November there were 600 ships in the harbor, each of which had 
brought its full quota of passengers. No attention was paid to the 
normal capacity of a vessel; the travelers were packed in with an 
efficiency of action and an economy of space resembling the New York 
subway in the rush hours of a later day. Around the Horn the gold- 
seekers came, in overloaded and often unseaworthy ships ; across the 
Isthmus of Panama, where many sickened of fever and died, and others, 
unable to get passage on any ship to San Francisco, returned to the 
States; over the deserts and plains and mountains of the interior of 
America in covered wagons, a terrible journey which killed many and 
sickened more and tried the hearts and bodies of the brave and the 
Strong. From the villages of New England, from the frontier of the 



190 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Missouri, from the crowded cities of the East, and from the ports of 
the world, on they came in a never-ending procession on to the mines, 
on to golden California. 

Forty-two thousand came overland in the year of 1849, 9? f rom 
Mexico. They found in San Francisco a strange city, sandy, wind 
swept, straggling, and unkempt, rising from low shore lands to near-by 
high hills. The harbor was crowded with deserted ships, several of 
which had been drawn up to the shore to serve as warehouses, and one 
as a hotel. And on the high hills, wherever there was room for foothold, 
the new-comers perched their houses, usually strips of canvas tacked 
around redwood posts, which, lighted up at night, made the town look 
as if hung with gigantic Chinese lanterns. The streets in the level part 
of the city alongside the bay were literally seas of mud, in which 
unwary pedestrians sometimes actually drowned at night. One corner 
bore a sign, "This Street Is Impassable Not Even Jackassable." One 
of the new arrivals described a downtown sidewalk which 

In any other portion of the earth would have been considered a very 
extravagant piece of work, hardly excelled by the golden pavements of the 
New Jerusalem. The first portion was constructed of Chilean flour in one 
hundred pound sacks, which, in some places, had been pushed down 
nearly out of sight in the soft mud. Then followed a long row of large 
cooking stoves over which it was necessary to pick your way carefully, as 
some of the covers had accidentally been thrown off. Beyond these was a 
double row of boxes of tobacco of large size. Although this style of walk 
may seem extravagant, yet, at the time, sacks of Chilean flour, cooking 
stoves, tobacco and pianos were the cheapest materials to be found, for 
lumber was in the greatest demand, selling for as much as $600 per 
thousand. 

The powers that were still looked with disfavor on San Francisco as 
the site of the city that was to dominate the bay. General Persifer F. 
Smith, in command of the Pacific Division, established Army head 
quarters across the bay at Benicia and reported to the Adjutant- 
General that the sea was too rough at San Francisco to load or unload 
ships three days out of seven, and that the town was on an extremely 
long point, cut off from the interior by an arm of the bay 30 miles long, 
with the only road impassable. The town, he said, was in no way 
fitted for military or commercial purposes ; there was no harbor, a bad 
landing-place, bad water, few supplies, and an inclement climate. He 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH IQI 

hoped that the President would be given power to select the site for the 
port of entry and capital of California, and he suggested Benicia as a 
very favorable site for a town "larger than is likely to exist anywhere 
here for a century to come." 

But the Forty-niners paid no heed to the General's sputtering, and 
even though his advice was sound, they applied themselves to building 
a city on the crazy sand-hills of San Francisco. The harbor then came 
up as far as Montgomery Street, and the huts of the squatters extended 
from the end of the business section around Portsmouth Square into 
the district now bounded by First, Second, Market, and Mission 
Streets, which was known as Happy Valley; south of this, as far as 
Howard Street, was Pleasant Valley; "lazy old, daisy old, Telegraph 
Hill" swarmed with ex-convicts, thieves, cutthroats, and ticket-of-leave 
men from Australia and bore the sinister name of Sidney Town ; while 
at its foot was a crowded settlement of Chileans, as all South Ameri 
cans were called by the Forty-niners. Huts and shacks were made of 
canvas or any other material that could be patched together, though 
the better class around Portsmouth Square had houses built in Boston 
and imported in sections ; the foundations of small buildings were apt 
to be of such strange material as tons of wire sieves or barrels of beef. 
The salvation of this flimsy town was the keen, tonic salt wind that 
blew over it and kept it fresh and its people invigorated and healthy. 
An epidemic would have wiped out the population, for to be sick in 
the California of those days, with few doctors or medicines and un 
speakably bad hospitals, was to die. But if it was spared epidemics, 
San Francisco was made to suffer trial by fire. Six times the flames 
swept over the old town, the total damage in less than 18 months 
being $24,000,000; six times it was rebuilt, and the city chose the 
phoenix for its crest. 

The streets were a motley of crowding, jostling men, practically all 
of them young to be 30 was be aged who rejoiced in wearing the 
picturesque slouch-hats and sombreros, wool shirts, and top-boots of 
the mines and in letting their beards grow. There was a liberal sprin 
kling of foreign costumes, there were many Chinese with basket hats 
and hundreds of Mexican gamblers who wore high black beavers, 
white shirts, and diamond studs. France sent the new land "several 
thousand lying men and corrupt women," embarking them at the 



IQ2 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

expense of the Government. Italy sent musicians, and also farmers who 
soon became rich, with eggs selling at from $6 to $12 a dozen. Ger 
many sent dairymen, barbers, laundrymen, the last of whom inherited 
a profitable trade, for San Francisco had sent its laundry to Hawaii 
and China, the local price being $10 a dozen. From Chile came many 
laborers. All these combined in a riotous, cosmopolitan life which 
scorned all conventions and in which the main meeting-place was the 
saloon and the chief amusement the gambling-table. 

Never did men become rich so quickly as in the California of '49. 
Although many never made more than day-laborer's wages, thousands 
struck it lucky. Nuggets worth thousands of dollars were found, and 
the miners, washing the gravel in creek-beds in their shallow circular 
pans and their large wooden rockers, discovered pay dirt which yielded 
fortunes. In the first five years nearly a billion and a quarter dollars' 
worth of gold was taken out of the soil of California, and much of it 
was spent in Sacramento and the mining-camps which rejoiced in such 
euphonious titles as Fleatown, Hangtown, Whiskey Gulch, You Bet, 
Poison Switch, You Be Dam, Delirium Tremens, Shirttail Canon, and 
Lousy Level. But it was to San Francisco, known universally as "the 
City," and still referred to by that title in the West, that the miners 
repaired for their more exuberant and extravagant periods of relaxa 
tion, and the city became known throughout the world for its wildness, 
boisterousness, and extravagance. Gold-dust was the medium of ex 
change, a pinch taken from the miner's pouch being the price of a 
drink, and bartenders won or failed to win their jobs as a result of 
their demonstration in reply to the question, "How much can you raise 
in a pinch?" Prices were always high, but they fluctuated violently as 
the market was alternately skimped and glutted through the arrival 
of ships with various kinds of cargo. Flour would sell for $27 a barrel 
one week and less than half that price the next. Cargoes were often 
thrown into the bay because the cost of paying the excessively high 
wages required to land them would be more than they were worth. 
Rooms in the good hotels cost $250 a month; a large canvas tent used 
by gamblers rented for $40,000 a year. The best restaurants charged 
$5 a meal, and General Vallejo recounts that a man could sell a 
wagonload of fish caught in the bay for $5,000 at the mines. 

Inevitably San Francisco became glutted with adventurers and 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 

criminals from all over the world. Indeed, so flagrant did the outrages 
of these men become and so impotent was the local government to 
cope with them that the citizens took the law into their own hands 
and organized the Vigilantes. At first under Sam Brannan, later under 
William Tell Coleman, this volunteer police force and court ruled the 
city from its headquarters at "Fort Gunnybags," gave a fair trial to 
criminals, and hanged or deported them if they were found guilty. 
Yankee rule dealt summarily with the owners of the old land-grants 
also. Although the treaty with Mexico provided that these claims 
should be held valid, the owners were required to defend their titles in 
courts set up by the Americans, and so costly, prolonged, and unfair 
were the suits that Vallejo and most of the others lost their lands and 
died poor men. Yankee squatters overran Sutter's land and destroyed 
his property, and although he spent the rest of his life trying to get 
recompense from Congress, he was never paid for his losses. 

But however much of the wild and irresponsible riffraff of the earth 
the gold-rush brought to San Francisco, there was a handful of wheat 
in every bushel of chaff. The first shipload that came into the harbor 
included men who contributed much to the West, among them the 
Reverend S. W. Willey, one of the founders and first executive officer 
of the University of California; and every day saw the arrival of 
others who were to remain long after the gold-rush was over and to 
make California great. From New York State came the young lawyers 
Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins, and also that native of Con 
necticut, the home of wooden nutmegs, Collis P. Huntington. There 
came also Charles Crocker, student in the university of hard knocks, 
peddler, miner, and trader in supplies. All these drifted to Sacramento, 
tried the mines for a while, and shrewdly deciding that money was to 
be made more safely and easily, if less spectacularly, by selling things 
to the miners than by swinging a pick or shaking a rocker, all of them 
went into business. These Yankees were to be known as "the Big 
Four" in Sacramento, and they were to become famous as the men 
who built the Central Pacific railroad. 

At this same time the fates were bringing together another quartet of 
young men, all Irish, who were to write their names large in Western 
history- James Graham Fair came from Tyrone, Ireland, to Calaveras 
County and early showed his administrative talent by leading a large 



194 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

party of emigrants, most of whom were older than himself; John 
William Mackay came from Dublin, by way of New York, where he 
was employed in a ship-builder's office before embarking for Panama, 
and finally set to work with pick and shovel in Sierra County ; James 
C. Flood, an Irish-born New Yorker of 23, landed on the muddy 
streets of San Francisco in 1849 and soon fel1 in with William S. 
O'Brien, another young Irishman, who proposed that they earn their 
fortunes with the towel and bottle instead of the shovel and pick by 
operating a saloon in San Francisco. There was also the keen-eyed 
young Jew, Adolph Sutro, who came from Aix-la-Chapelle, by way of 
New York and Panama, and who spent his evenings studying how to 
reclaim the treasures of gold that were lost in the crude rockers of the 
early miners ; and the young lawyer William Sharon, shrewd, ruthless, 
daring, who was to make and lose a fortune in real estate and de 
velop a great mining monopoly. Around the bar of Flood and O'Brien 
and in their lunch-room, where a particularly succulent fish stew was 
served, there gathered other men whose names were later to be famous : 
Darius Ogden Mills, financier; Elias Jackson ("Lucky") Baldwin, 
miner and landowner; John P. Jones, some day to be Senator from 
Nevada; and William C. Ralston, destined to become ruler of the 
largest banking monopoly in the West. 

All these men were adventurers, all sought the gold, and when they 
later came to dominate the affairs of California, they gave the state 
that reputation for breezy recklessness, daring schemes, and bold opera 
tions which it has never lost. Not for them the soft ideas of public 
service and public trust which society in later years attempted to 
impose upon industrialists. They believed in the rule of tooth and claw. 
They saw what they wanted in the way of business monopoly, they 
gave their time and money to get it, they fought to hold it every inch 
of the way, and they considered whatever they gained to be their own 
private property, to do with as they chose. 

In 1854 there came another man who was to have profound influence 
on the development of San Francisco, Theodore D. Judah, civil en 
gineer, who conceived the idea of building the Pacific railroad and, after 
failing to interest San Francisco financiers, got the backing of the four 
Sacramento merchants, Hopkins, Huntington, Crocker, and Stanford, 
whom he started towards becoming the greatest railroad-builders in the 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 195 

country. This far-seeing engineer was born at Bridgeport, Connecticut, 
March 4, 1826, the son of an Episcopal clergyman. Educated at Rens- 
selaer Polytechnic Institute, his first job was helping to build the Troy 
and Schenectady Railroad. When General William T. Sherman and 
others decided to build a California key-railroad from Sacramento east 
and north along the foothills to tap the rich placer-mining country, 
with extensions north, south, and east, they made Judah their engineer. 
But the problems of building a valley railroad were not sufficiently 
difficult to hold his interest, and he began to speculate on the possi 
bility of building a railroad from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from San 
Francisco over the high Sierras. With a light one-horse wagon, a 
barometer, a compass, and an odometer, he crossed and recrossed the 
Sierras twenty-three times and located the line across the Dutch Flat 
route. He induced the state legislature to call a railroad convention, 
including delegates from Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada, in San Fran 
cisco in 1859, and on June 27, 1861, he was one of the incorporators of 
the Central Pacific Railroad. 

Judah said that the reason no national railroad bill had been passed, 
in spite of all the grandiose schemes and flowery speeches in favor of it 
in Congress, was that no one had any facts ; and he proposed definitely 
to answer such practical questions about a road to California as Con 
gress might ask, giving data as to length, alignment, grades, number of 
tunnels, amount of excavation, masonry needed, and natural building 
materials available. In October, 1861, having obtained the support of 
Huntington and his group, he sailed for Washington, and there he 
turned the former Vice-President's room in the Capitol into a Pacific- 
railroad museum, where he showed Congressmen charts, maps, and 
reports. When his efforts were successful and President Lincoln signed 
the Pacific-railroad bill, he telegraphed, "We have drawn the elephant ; 
now let us see if we can harness him." In spite of mutterings that "the 
Dutch Flat Swindle" never intended to cross the mountains and the 
refusal of Darius Ogden Mills and other San Francisco capitalists to 
give financial assistance, the work was begun and went speedily for 
ward. But Judah was not always in accord with the partners on 
matters of policy, and they quarreled. He thought they had agreed that 
his services previous to the final organization would be taken as 
equivalent to the first 10 per cent payment on his stock, but Hopkins 



196 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

said he had no recollection of any such agreement, and the Big Four 
finally bought Judah out for $100,000. On his last trip to New York, 
where he intended to interest Eastern capitalists in the project, he 
contracted Panama fever crossing the Isthmus and died in the Astor 
House on November 2, 1863. So, at the age of 37, ended the career of 
the man who initiated the California railroad, an idealist and dreamer 
whose enthusiasm and vigor were equal to the practical demands of 
organization, promotion, and lobbying necessary to bring his ideas to 
reality. 

Charles Crocker, the builder of the group, was born at Troy, New 
York, September 14, 1822. His father had been a merchant and a whole 
sale liquor-dealer, but when Charles was young, he was very poor, and 
at the age of 12 he helped to support the family. When his father went 
to Indiana, Charles bought the right to carry the New York Transcript 
from a man who was in debt to the paper, earned all the living expenses 
of his mother and sister, paid the $200 debt on the route, and saved 
$500 additional. When the family followed the father to Indiana, 
Charles handed over his earnings to them, and when his mother died 
soon afterward, he set out for himself, all his property consisting of a 
pair of woolen socks, a cotton shirt, and a linen dickey tied up in a cot 
ton handkerchief. On his first job he toiled from four in the morning 
until eight at night, cutting 200 oak rails a day and afterwards doing the 
chores. In the evening he worked by firelight making hickory brooms 
and ax-handles. 

Crocker went to school three months and worked for a minister. Then 
he got a job in a sawmill, where he worked 16 hours a day for $n a 
month ; and when the owner inquired if he could take a raft of lumber 
down the river, Charles replied, "Yes, if I see you do it once." His next 
job was as apprentice in an iron forge, and he kept at this until he was 
22 and had learned the trade of making bar iron as well as the book 
keeping of the establishment. Desiring to set up as an ironmaster, he 
prospected for iron ore and, finding a bed of it, built a forge and 
stayed with it until 1849, when he sold out to his partner and started 
across the plains to California. With all this practical experience, 
coupled with his native powers, it is no wonder that he was made 
captain of his group. 

At St. Joseph, Missouri, Crocker induced the owners of a river- 




THE PRESIDIO OF SAN FRANCISCO 

Louis Choris, Voyage Pittoresque aiitour du Monde, 1822. From the Stokes 
Collection, New York Public Library. 







SUITER'S MILL AT COLOMA 

The scene of the first discovery of gold on January 24, 1848. Gkason's Pictorial 
Drawing-Room Companion, 1852. 




o ^ 

u -s 

CO 

P i 



I 



S 
3 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 197 

steamer to supply passage to Council Bluffs provided he could furnish 
250 tons of freight and fifteen first-class passengers. He more than 
fulfilled this agreement, but on the journey he learned that the captain 
proposed to put them all ashore at Sandusky. Whereupon Charles told 
his party to keep their shot-guns loaded and back him up in whatever 
he did. When all the freight was unloaded, the mate ordered the crew 
to take off the luggage of the passengers. "That box is not going ashore 
here/' cried Crocker. "The first man who touches it is a dead man." 
"Shore that box/' yelled the mate, but the crew made no response. 
Leaving the rest of the party to protect their property, Crocker went to 
confer with the captain, who told him there was not enough water in 
the river for the boat to go to Council Bluffs. Charles pointed out the 
driftwood floating down as evidence of high water, and when the cap 
tain said he had not enough wood to burn, Crocker said the passengers 
would cut all he needed. So the captain reluctantly ordered the boat to 
proceed, and when they at last reached Council Bluffs, he called 
Crocker into his cabin, opened a bottle of champagne, and said, "Well, 
by golly, old fellow, if anybody gets to California, you will ! " 

Arriving at Sacramento with $850, Crocker worked a claim at Placer- 
ville for a while and then decided there was more money to be made 
in selling supplies to the miners than in mining ; so he opened a dry- 
goods store there in partnership with his brother, adding a branch in 
Negro Hill. He made money in mining properties and opened a large 
store in Sacramento, and when this was burned, he rebuilt it in brick, 
with the first iron front in town. By 1860 he owned valuable properties 
and was entirely out of debt. Always a Republican, he became ac 
quainted with other members of the minority party in Sacramento, 
among them Mark Hopkins, who interested him in the Pacific-railroad 
project. In the spring of 1862 Crocker joined the others in the railroad 
work, selling his store to his clerks at a low price and giving them 
time to pay for it. 

As a railroad-builder he was most successful. Of exuberant spirit, he 
could do more work than two ordinary men, and he never spared him 
self. While the other partners were dignified and conservative in bear 
ing, he was the embodiment of push, vim, and energy. As supervisor of 
construction he combined economy and driving-power ; he watched the 
spending of a sixpence as closely as $100,000, and he kept the men on 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

their mettle. "When I took the first contract to build on this railroad, 
they wanted to know what experience I had/' Crocker said. "I told 
them I had all the experience necessary. I knew how to manage men ; 
I had worked them in the ore beds, in the coal pits, and worked them 
all sorts of ways, and had worked myself right along with them. I 
learned these valuable lessons in Marshall County, Indiana." 

Just as Crocker started to do what he was best fitted for, so each 
of the others made his distinctive contribution. "We all came together 
and we were all anxious to succeed, all ambitious," he says, "and each 
one dropped into his place and filled it." Of his construction work 
Moses Hopkins says, "He was a man to go among the workmen and 
keep things alive. He had driving force, he was like an electric shock 
and always of good cheer, even if he had only a crust for breakfast." 
Crocker says he was very hard to live with while the road was build 
ing because he had to keep himself in a critical, fault-finding frame of 
mind which was contrary to his nature. "Why, I used to go up and 
down the road in my car like a mad bull," he said, "stopping along 
wherever there was anything going amiss and raising old Nick. The 
men were afraid because I was just looking for something to find 
fault with." 

In his History of the San Francisco Bay Region Bailey Millard says 
that Crocker 

was in the field at all hours and proved himself a master of expedition. At 
one time a bridge was washed out by a spring freshet. Unless another 
were in place in a few days the work at the end of the line would have to 
stop. The engineer having the rebuilding of the bridge in charge did not 
get busy fast enough to suit Crocker who demanded that trains be running 
over the canyon within five days. 

"I don't believe it can be done," said the engineer, "but I'll try it." 

"I don't want anybody to try it!" roared Crocker, testily. "I can get 
plenty of men to try it. What I want is a man who will go out and do it! " 

"Well, I'll get the old plans and time sheets and study them out," was 
all the engineer would promise. 

So Crocker went out and addressed a crowd of tracklayers who had 
been salvaging material from the wrecked bridge. 

"Look here/' he cried, "is there a man among you who can rebuild this 
bridge in five days?" 

"I can/ 3 promptly spoke up a young man in a gray flannel shirt, coming 
forward. 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 199 

"All right," asserted Crocker. "Go ahead and do it. You can have all 
the men you want.' 7 

The young man went ahead and threw up a bridge on corn crib piers 
and trains were running across in the specified time. In the course of time 
this man, William Hood, was made chief engineer of the whole system. 

When it became evident that the Irish labor-supply would not be 
sufficient to build the road, Crocker started importing Chinese labor 
ers, and these "Crocker's pets" soon totaled thousands. In Beyond the 
Mississippi Albert D. Richardson tells of a trip he took over the 
road and the 12 miles being graded over the summit, where he found 
4,000 laborers at work one-tenth Irish, the rest Chinese: 

They were a great army laying siege to Nature in her strongest citadel. 
The rugged mountains looked like stupendous ant hills. They swarmed 
with Celestials shoveling, wheeling, carting, drilling, blasting rocks and 
earth, while their dull, moony eyes stared out from under immense basket 
hats like umbrellas. At several camps we saw hundreds sitting on the 
ground, eating soft boiled rice with chop sticks as fast as terrestrials could 
with soup ladles. Irish laborers receive thirty dollars per month, in gold, 
and board; Chinese thirty-one dollars, boarding themselves. After a little 
experience, the latter are quite as efficient and far less troublesome. The 
Hudson's Bay Company, in its palmy days, was compelled to import 
laborers from the Sandwich Islands; and without the Chinese the Cali 
fornia end of the great national thoroughfares must have been delayed for 
years. Twelve thousand are now employed on it. 

Crocker's pastor described him as a man of double character, one 
who was usually jolly, full of bonhomie, cheery, and affable, but who 
could instantly become the picture of negation, decisiveness, firmness, 
and reproof. Shrewd and full of guile, he kept his men from striking 
for more wages by suggesting to his superintendent that their pay be 
cut this in the hearing of the committee who were calling on him 
to ask for a raise. When the Union Pacific sent a man out to see how 
much track could be laid in the last year of construction, Crocker 
and his superintendent carried on in his hearing a most lugubrious 
conversation, describing the difficulties encountered and the lack of 
supplies. As a consequence of this the Union Pacific man reassured 
his superiors by reporting that the Central Pacific could not lay 150 
miles of track in a year, but it actually laid 501 miles in nine months 
and got the government subsidy that went wit^ it. When the Sacra- 



200 THEY BUIL1 THE WEST 

mento Union declared the road to be unsafe over a 5o-mile stretch, 
Crocker invited the United States commissioners to ride over it at 50 
miles an hour, and he put a glass of water on the floor to show them 
that the track was so good that very little of it would spill. 

It was Crocker, too, who helped move the Sierra Nevada Mountains 
20 miles westward, thus increasing the amount of government subsidy 
by $640,000. He took Professor Josiah D. Whitney, state geologist, 
for a ride over the route, showing him a profile of the road from 
Sacramento to Truckee and asking him to designate the beginning 
of the Sierras, where the triple rate of pay from the Government 
began. The geologist decided that rising ground began at Arcade 
Creek, though the true base had generally been considered 20 miles 
east of this point, "but for the purpose of the bill Arcade Creek would 
be as fair a place as any.' 3 With this data as evidence Huntington 
was able to get Arcade Creek officially designated as the beginning 
of the mountains. 

As a demonstration of what he could do as a builder, Crocker organ 
ized his men to lay 10 miles of track in a day. Although the superin 
tendent said the number required to do this was so great that they 
would get in each other's way, Crocker organized the work as Ford 
later organized automobile building, so that each man tapped only 
one particular spike or made one motion in laying a rail. An Army 
general who watched the work said, "Mr. Crocker, I never saw such 
organization. It was just like an army marching over the ground and 
leaving a track built behind them and all done about as fast as a 
horse could walk." 

As to the Government's relation to the work, Crocker said that 
nothing could be done without money. "Not a clerk but wanted money 
to hurry things out of the pigeon hole fifty or a hundred dollars. 
Things did not move until they were greased, then they would slide." 
Of the lobbying carried on by the road in Congress and state legis 
latures, he said, "We have always tried to prevent passage of those 
laws that were going to ruin us just as any man would throw a bucket 
of water on a fire that had attacked his house." 

Decided, firm, and yet not obstinate, and as ready to handle fifteen 
thousand men as one thousand, Crocker did a work no ordinary man 
could have accomplished. He was not without generosity, building a 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 2OI 

home for the Boy's and Girl's Aid Society, making gifts to the Uni 
versity of California, and liberally supporting the Associated Charities 
of San Francisco, although he left no great philanthropy to bear his 
name. The Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento is the gift of his brother, 
Judge Edwin B. Crocker, the legal adviser of the Central Pacific.' 
On Charles' death in August, 1888, his high qualities were extolled 
in a lengthy memorial by "a Sacramento Pioneer," the first two stanzas 
of which read, 

The man of giant energies, the man of iron will, 
Where shall we find a man CHARLES CROCKER'S place to fill? 
He that would scale the mountains to build a nation's way, 
Who tunnelled through the solid rock that seemed to bar his way. 

Then o'er the mountains, through the mountains he sped the iron horse 
Nothing that mortal could achieve could stay him in his course. 
Mountains he leveled, valleys he filled, through forest and o'er plain, 
And when he signal'd his iron horse, off sped his lightning train. 

Mark Hopkins, the oldest of the group and the one who attended 
to the office work, was born September i, 1813, at Henderson, New 
York. At 16 he was a clerk in a Niagara County store; then he ran 
a packet-boat on Lake Ontario, studied law in Lockport with his 
brother Henry, and moved to Michigan, where he opened a store at 
St. Clair. When the California fever was beginning, Hopkins went to 
New York and with a company of twenty-five others bought compli 
cated mining machinery and a house in sections and took passage on a 
steamer bound around the Horn. Although their agreement read that 
they should have the same food as that at the captain's table, the 
associates were fed on beans, biscuit, and salt meat and treated like 
emigrants. Under the advice of Mark Hopkins they waited until they 
reached Rio de Janeiro, and there they put their case before the 
American consul, who assisted them in getting a new captain. 

When they arrived at San Francisco, they abandoned their ma 
chinery, sold their house, and dissolved the company, finding, like 
many others, that such an organization was unsuited to the California 
mining situation. Hopkins and some others took a life-boat and went 
up the river to Sacramento, trading the boat there for an ox-team. He 
soon opened a general store at Hangtown, now Placerville, bringing 
his own goods by ox-team from Sacramento. Next year he went into 



202 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the wholesale grocery business at Sacramento, making money fast 
and investing it in real estate. In 1856 he joined Huntington in the 
hardware and mining-supplies business, a venture which was most suc 
cessful, although between 1870 and 1880 eight of the largest hardware 
firms in San Francisco failed. The firm was the symbol for all that 
was honest, progressive, and sagacious in mercantile affairs and was a 
training-school for young men. The association with Huntington con 
tinued until Hopkins' death in March, 1878. 

From childhood, his brother Moses says, Hopkins was always a 
leader, whether playing soldier, hunting coons, or in business councils. 

He had courage, nerve, prided himself on his judgment, decided each point 
at issue definitely, and stuck to his decision. He was independent and re 
bellious as a boy, particularly on attending church, and never seemed able 
to get ready when his parents wanted to take him to perform his religious 
duties. He was always pleasant, charitable and merciful to man and beast 
but his manner at the moment would lead one often to doubt there was 
much sympathy or respect for other people's ideas, if they did not agree 
with his own. He was not easily irritated and never exhibited intemperate 
passion. There was a stolid determination and ugliness in his action that 
did not tolerate argument or anything else. 

Mark Hopkins was known as the mentor of the railroad associates, 
for whenever difficult problems arose, he was consulted as one who 
had a comprehensive grasp of the business situation and whose deci 
sions were seldom at fault. The balance-wheel of the group, he was 
always the conservative, careful business man, seldom taking part in 
any discussion until there was a knotty problem to be solved, when 
he was ready to cut the knots. He took plenty of time to consider 
every question. The slowest of the four, he would analyze, combine, 
and render judgment, usually expressing himself last. Huntington 

called him "one of the truest and best men that ever lived Hopkins 

had one of those sharp analytical minds that could master anything 
he took hold of. He had general supervision of the books and the 
papers, and contracts. When he said they were right I never cared to 

look at them He was a very correct man in everything, a very 

able man. He never bought or sold anything the time he was with 
me." And again : "I do not know what we should do without him as 
he always seems to know just what is the best thing to do in all cases." 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 203 

And again he said, "I never considered anything finished until Hopkins 
looked at it." 

Distinctly an office man, Hopkins never left it to transact busi 
ness. If a transaction could not be made from his desk, he never made 
it. He was willing to see employees, listen to grievances, and correct 
them when possible, but he never took part in the active affairs of 
the road. Crocker says he once went away leaving orders for Hopkins 
to stop the construction work at a certain time, but when he returned, 
the large force of men was still working, although it had long since 
finished the job. When he complained, Hopkins said, "Well, I knew 
you would return pretty soon and look after it." Crocker's estimate 
was, "Hopkins was a long headed man without much executive ability 
but was a wonderfully good man to counsel with, clear headed, under 
standing what he heard, and making up his mind on the state of fact 
very judiciously. He hated to give orders. He went out on the road 
only once a year. I knew every inch of the road, and traveling along 
it could wake up and tell where I was." 

Carefully studying the situation, Hopkins and the others decided 
that the reason so many American railroads were not carried to com 
pletion by their original owners was that they were not economically 
managed, were built too largely on credit, and were drained by interest 
charges before earnings began. Hence they concentrated on economy, 
cheap loans, and postponed interest-payments. Hopkins was the finan 
cial and office man of the various building and railroad companies, and 
it was said that the last time the books of the Contract and Finance 
Company were seen, "Uncle Mark" was putting them into a box and 
screwing down the lid. Since an official of the company left for Paris 
shortly thereafter, the legend grew up in California that the books 
found a last resting-place at the bottom of the Seine. At any rate, no 
railroad investigating committee was ever able to find them or the 
books of Charles Crocker and Company, and consequently no Credit 
Mobilier scandal was ever connected with the Central Pacific. 

Hopkins, like all the other partners, was a Republican, a none too 
popular party affiliation in early California. He was described by a 
contemporary as a very thin man with long gray whiskers, who spoke 
with a slight lisp or impediment. He was the best letter-writer of the 
group and "could say more in a page of note paper than Crocker 



204 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

could say on six pages of foolscap." He was cautious and diplomatic 
and disliked political entanglements, as the following letter shows : 

As a company our rule heretofore in political affairs has been to take no 
part except where an enemy endeavors to obtain position with intent to do 
us harm, then self interest induces us to oppose. I think our future course 
must be governed by the same rule. As business men and taxpayers in 
Nevada, we have a common interest with the people there none have 
more at stake than we in her progress and good government. With your 
selections of U. S. Senators heretofore we have been content, and I 
naturally conclude we shall be in the future, because I think you cannot 
choose wisely for yourselves without doing equally well for the railroad 
interests which must continue to constitute an important element in the 
development, progress and prosperity of the state. What of company poli 
tics we have occasion for Stanford represents. The less I have to do with 
political matters, except to represent my native born personal Republican 
ism, the better I am pleased. 

It was said of Hopkins that he liked to work more than the laziest 
man likes to loaf; his office window was often lighted until two o'clock 
in the morning, and he died of overwork. It was reported that he gave 
to charities and that he would rather hand out a check for $1,000 as 
a gift than waste a nickel. But he left no large gifts to philanthropy, 
and his estate was the subject of legal controversy by various claim 
ants for many years. At the time of his death he was building a mag 
nificent palace on Nob Hill in San Francisco ; it was a gray-towered 
feudal castle set on top of steep, terraced gardens surrounded by a 
buttressed wall 40 feet high. One of its great rooms was modeled after 
a court of the Doge's Palace, the whole house was lined with carved 
Italian walnut, rare woods, and marbles, and it was said that the archi 
tect purchased the books for the library by the yard. On this house 
Hopkins spent nearly $1,000,000, and his brother Moses said of it, 
"Everything was perfect, solid, and very expensive. The completeness 
of whatever he had was the charm of it to him. 75 At Hopkins' death 
one of the newspapers remarked that, though building a palace, he 
still lived in a $35 a month house, did his own gardening, took pleasure 
in picking up bits of old iron and odds and ends, and was "economical 
to a point of eccentricity in his apparel. No old clo ? dealer ever saw 
any margin for speculation in his cast off garments." Later some of 
the Hopkins wealth went to the University of California, and the Nob 




COLLIS P. HUNTINGTON LELAND STANFORD 

THEODORE D. JUDAH 
CHARLES CROCKER MARK HOPKINS 

Huntington, Stanford, Crocker, and Hopkins, courtesy of the Society of California 

Pioneers; Judah, courtesy of the Southern Pacific Company. 




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SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 2O5 

Hill house was given to the California School of Fine Arts by Edwin 
F. Searles, an architect, who married Mrs. Hopkins after drawing 
the plans for a house she built at Great Barrington, Massachusetts. 

Leland Stanford, the partner who handled the railroad's political 
affairs in California, was born at Watervliet, New York, in the 
Mohawk valley between Albany and Schenectady, on March 9, 1824. 
His father was a contractor, and the boy early showed his taste for 
business. His first venture in trade was to wash some horse-radish 
and send it to town by the gardener, who sold it for him for six 
shillings; a little later he gathered and sold $25 worth of chestnuts; 
and as a young man he cut 2,600 cords of wood from his father's 
land and sold it for a profit of $2,600. He attended Cazenovia Semi 
nary, practiced law in Port Washington, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 
and came to California by w r ay of Nicaragua in July, 1852. He opened 
his first store at Cold Springs, between Placerville and Coloma, and 
later another at Michigan Bluffs. During these early years his wife 
remained in New York, and Stanford lived in a corner of the store 
building. When his store was flooded, his great strength showed itself 
as he easily lifted barrels of sugar to the counter out of the water ; 
fais ingenuity was in evidence when he invented diluted whisky to 
sell the miners as a substitute for vinegar to flavor their beans. Finally, 
he and his brother took over the store at 56 and 58 K Street, Sacra 
mento, and from this store and the grub-staking of miners he made in 
all about 400,000. Republican, antislavery in sympathies, he helped 
to organize the party in California, was its first nominee for treasurer, 
and twice its nominee for* governor, being elected the second time. As 
Civil War governor, and the first Republican to hold the office, Stanford 
headed the state which contributed $178,000,000 gold to the Treasury, 
and he was a liberal supporter of the Sanitary Commission, prede 
cessor of the Red Cross, of which he was state chairman. During his 
election campaign the Sacramento Union referred to him as a candi 
date who was not an orator but who was "a man of sound judgment, 
handsome talents, extensive business experience and a citizen without 
reproach." 

From the beginning Stanford supported the, idea of a Pacific rail 
road, and, like the other partners, he furnished fertile soil for Judah's 
appeal. He was described as a handsome man of impressive bearing, 



206 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

deep-chested, with large shoulders and arms, a large face with short 
whiskers and mustache; he was bland, unctuous, slow in movement, 
and inclined to procrastinate, in contrast with the fiery, energetic 
Crocker, who wanted everything done now. But it was said of him 
that "no she lion defending her whelps, or a bear her cubs, will make 
a more savage fight than Mr. Stanford in defense of his material 
interests." At his inaugural in 1862 he declared against the importation 
into California of more Chinese, but he later said little on this subject, 
for Crocker decided that he needed them to build the Central Pacific. 
One night Crocker took 500 Chinamen from a ship in the harbor, 
loaded them on trains, and dumped them at the head of the track; 
after that many thousands more were imported. 

At the beginning of construction the Central Pacific was referred 
to as "Stanford's moonshine project," and the newspapers freely pre 
dicted that there would never be a railroad to Nevada by way of 
Dutch Flat, for the obstacles were too great. Stanford was one of the 
first to advocate an immediate direct connection with San Francisco, 
recommending building to Goat Island; but this terminal could not 
be obtained, and San Francisco offered no help, being, even then, 
"serene, indifferent to fate." So the western terminus remained for a 
while at Sacramento. While caring for his railroad interests Stanford 
became a political power in California, and from 1885 to 1801 he 
served as United States Senator. This widened a breach between him 
and Huntington, who, feeling that Stanford was using the Southern 
Pacific as an instrument for his own personal advancement, forced 
him from the presidency. Huntington assumed that position himself 
and declared that he intended to use the office to further the interests 
of the railroad and nothing else. He often made slighting remarks 
concerning Stanford, whose more lavish style of living and spending 
did not meet with his approval. To a representative of the historian 
H. H. Bancroft, who was seeking to gather material about the lives 
of the railroad-builders, he said : "I guess he will refer you to Curtis. 
I call Curtis Stanford's romancer. I think he helps him to write his 
biographies for him." 

Stanford traveled much abroad; purchased a great farm at Palo 
Alto, down the peninsula from San Francisco, where he raised trotting 
horses ; bought his wife collections of laces and rubies said to be un- 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 2O7 

equaled; and entertained lavishly. When he was Senator, he gave a 
dinner for the Senate page boys, inviting them on engraved cards and 
presenting each with a $5 bill and a pair of gold cuff-links. He believed 
in spending money freely, and he also believed in sharing it with his 
employees, paying high wages as a matter of sound business. He has 
been described as a man of absolute justice, a man of long silences, 
and a gentle man in both senses of the words. 

Yet he could be markedly intolerant. The story is told of a dinner 
at Stanford's house in San Francisco at which he complained bitterly 
of the ingratitude of the Government and the people toward the build 
ers of the Central Pacific and dwelt on the many and enormous sac 
rifices that he and his partners had made, only to have the Government 
hound them as Shylock hounded Antonio for his pound of flesh. The 
room in which he spoke contained paintings, rugs, and statuary worth 
many thousands of dollars, and a vase on the sideboard was valued 
at $100,000. And Justice Stephen J. Field remarked to his dinner part 
ner, "You need only look around the room to see how shamefully 
these gentlemen have been treated by an ungenerous and ungrateful 
Government." 

At the time Stanford began breeding horses, it was thought that fast 
trotters were the result of accident rather than blood; the results 
Stanford obtained were instrumental in changing that belief. He was a 
good judge of horse-flesh, purchasing Electioneer, who sired many 
of his best trotters, although he was advised against this by experts. 
In Paris he criticized a painting by Meissonier, the "Cavalry Charge," 
on the ground that the horses were not rightly poised, and he con 
vinced the artist so completely that he said he would never paint a 
horse again. To prove his belief that when a horse is trotting fast, 
all its feet are sometimes off the ground, and that in jumping it springs 
with its fore feet, Stanford spent $200,000 on electrically controlled 
cameras to take consecutive pictures. This resulted in the book The 
Horse in Motion, which was, in reality, the beginning of the motion- 
picture. 

Something of a dreamer, Stanford took the large view of things. 
When asked about political affairs by a San Francisco Chronicle re 
porter on May 9, 1875, he said he was thinking of more important 
matters ; he was looking forward to the time when the railroad system 



208 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

should be completed : "I shall see trains of cars loaded with merchan 
dise and passengers . . . from the line of the 32nd parallel . . . from 
Mexico . . . Washington . . . Oregon . . . ocean steamers bearing the trade 
of India, the commerce of Asia, the traffic of the islands of the ocean. 
... I shall see our thronged and busy streets, our wharves laden with 
the commerce of the Orient, and I shall say to myself, 'I have aided 
to bring this prosperity to the state of my adoption and to the city in 
which I have chosen my home. 5 " 

Grief-stricken when his only son died, Stanford turned his attention 
to the disposal of his great fortune as a memorial. To Dr. Beard, the 
rector of the American Church in Paris, he said, "I was thinking I 
might do something for other people's boys in Leland's name. When 
I was connected with the building of the railroad, I found many of 
those engaged in the engineering were inefficient and inexact and 
poorly prepared for their work. I was thinking I might start a school 
for civil and mechanical engineers on my grounds at Palo Alto." As 
this idea grew, he and his wife visited and inspected various universi 
ties, clarified their ideas, and sought advice, until they finally founded 
Leland Stanford Junior University, endowing it with $20,000,000. The 
establishment of this Far Western university with an endowment four 
times that of Columbia, five times that of Harvard, astonished the 
world, and it was doubted that California could ever furnish enough 
students to make proper use of it. As president Stanford selected 
David Starr Jordan, who added to the plans of the founder his own 
ideas on education, making Stanford one of the outstanding universi 
ties of the world, and who once remarked that the reason he was a 
good president was because he didn't want the job. As to the opinion 
the people of California held of Stanford, the Los Angeles Times re 
marked on January 21, 1885, "Amidst all the fierce antagonisms which 
the action of the colossal corporation of which he is head has aroused 
in California, but a small measure of it, comparatively, has descended 
upon the head of the chief himself, and there is to-day a not unkindly 
feeling towards him on the part of the whole people of the state." 
Stanford died on June 21, 1893. 

Collis Potter Huntington, the railroad's financier and lobbyist, 
strongest of the Big Four and the last to survive, was born in Har- 
winton, Connecticut, October 22, 1821. From his Puritan father of 




INTERIOR OF AN EARLY TRANSCONTINENTAL PALACE SLEEPING-CAR 
Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad. 




SNOW-SHEDS ON THE CENTRAL PACIFIC 
Drawn and engraved by Joseph Becker. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1870. 







THE CLIFF HOUSE AND SEAL ROCKS 
Engraved after a photograph. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 1870. 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 20Q 

severe and miserly character he got much good advice, including this 
warning: "Do not be afraid to do business with a rascal only watch 
him ; but avoid a fool, for you can never make anything out of him. J ' 
In his first year's work Collis earned $84 and saved every penny ; when 
he had $175, at 16, he bought $3,000 worth of watch-findings on credit 
and peddled them for a profit. He then bought a lot of rather risky 
commercial notes owned by a man who had been selling clocks in the 
South, went down and collected them, and during the trip learned 
about the country and its commercial possibilities thoroughly, and, 
incidentally, came to think slavery a greater curse to the white man 
than to the Negro. He next opened a store in Oneonta, trading suc 
cessfully with the shrewd farmers of up-state New York and develop 
ing the largest business in the county. "Those old farmers are sharp," 
Huntington once said. "They never keep their word. I always used 
to pay them something to make a contract with them. I was the only 
man who went eight years steady in the butter trade that did not fail." 
He even pitted his wits against the wholesale butter-dealers in New 
York. When he took a large supply to the city and was dissatisfied 
with the price offered by one dealer, he went to others without obtain 
ing any better price ; and when he came back to the first dealer, this 
man lowered his offer a cent a pound. Again Huntington tried un 
successfully to sell at a higher price elsewhere; again the dealer cut 
his offer a cent. So Huntington decided to sell the butter at retail 
himself. From a friend he got the use of an old building in West Street 
in return for paying the porter's wages, and he wheeled his butter to 
this building in a four-wheel truck, hoisting it up in slings with the 
help of the porter. He bought a smock and put it on and washed all 
the butter every firkin of it, rested several days, and then set out 
to sell it. He got notes of introduction to hotels and boarding-houses 
and sold all his butter to them at retail prices. Then his brother sent 
more, and Huntington was on the way to becoming a power in the 
New York butter trade. But now the dealer who had tried to get his 
butter at a low price said, "I will buy you out if you will clear out. 
You are ruining my business." "Well," said Huntington, "I have sold 
my butter. I have hot any good butter left but if you will give me 
1 6 cents a pound for what I have got it's all pretty poor I will go 
home." The bargain was closed, and the country storekeeper, Collis 



210 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Huntington, thereafter commanded the respect of the big butter and 
egg men of New York. 

Huntington was a fine physical specimen, never tiring no matter 
how hard he drove himself, so strong that he was known as a the best 
man in the county." When a boy he could whip any boy in school, 
and as a man he could take a barrel of flour by the chines and lift 
it to his shoulder. For recreation he cut wood, and when he left 
Oneonta, two of the citizens called on him and said, "We are will 
ing to bet that you never sat down in a hotel or saloon in Oneonta." 
He always did everything he undertook thoroughly, for, as he said, 
"I used to have a theory when I was a boy; it was not a theory, 
it was a practice. I always took the work that was nearest to me. 
I always thought, now I will do this better than anybody's ever had 
this done. That will be a step nearer the next thing. I never troubled 
myself much about tomorrow and never made any complaint. . . . 
I have never failed to do anything I started to do." 

He started for California, not much moved by the gold excite 
ment, but simply because he thought there would be lots of money 
in circulation there. Detained at Panama, he says, "I rigged myself 
up for business and bought and sold anything there was money in. 
Many companies came down there and the captains and lieutenants 
quarreled and I bought them out." He hired boats to take passengers 
up the Chagres River; he purchased a little steamer, loaded it at 
ports on the South American coast with jerked beef, potatoes, rice, 
sugar, and syrup, sold them in Panama, and ran up the $1,200 he 
arrived with to $4,000. At San Francisco he did some more trading, 
added $1,000 to his capital, and then set out for Sacramento,** where, 
he says, "I worked nearly a whole day in the mines and made up 
my mind it would not pay me." So he opened a store and became 
one of the city's most successful traders. 

The surfeits of supply, coincident with the arrival of ships carry 
ing huge cargoes, made various articles sometimes a drug on the 
market; then Huntington would buy. When there were plenty of 
shovels and no one wanted them, he bought the entire supply. He 
bought Ames steel shovels worth $12.60 a dozen at the fadtory for 
$2.50 a dozen. As the supply lessened, he bought all he could find 
at $25 and $35 a dozen; and finally he cornered the market by buying 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 211 

the supply a ship was bringing in at the unheard-of figure of $125 
a dozen. And he told the captain, "You may put that in the paper 
if you want to." When this item appeared, it set the price, and then 
Huntington sold 2,000 dozen shovels at $120 a dozen, the last of 
the Ames shovels going at twice that figure. He spent much of his 
time in San Francisco trading, and there was never a clear morning 
while he was there that he did not look through his very fine field- 
glasses to see what ships had come into the bay. If there were new 
comers, he would row out and board them. One day he went out 
and climbed aboard a ship and told the captain he wanted to buy 
cobbles. "I have no cobbles. Nothing but potatoes," said the cap 
tain. Huntington said he might take a few if the price was right. 
The captain said he would sell at 10 cents a bushel, and Huntington 
took the whole cargo, binding the bargain with a thousand-dollar 
bag of gold-dust he always carried with him. He then went ashore 
and got orders for the supply at 18 cents, making a profit of $8,000. 
Buying entire cargoes, Huntington filled his warehouses with a great 
variety of merchandise. At one time he bought a cargo containing 45 
mattresses. He installed the mattresses in his store building and in 
vited his customers from the mines to sleep there in the best beds 
in Sacramento, charging them nothing. For $29 he bought a library 
containing, he says, "Rollins Ancient History in true calf; Plutarch's 
lives was in it bound in very nice calf. ... I made the book cases 
myself. ... I gave the porter ten dollars to buy papers." Thus he 
equipped a comfortable, well-lighted library for his twenty clerks, 
and here he expected them to spend their evenings. He fed and housed 
them well, and it was part of their contract that they were to stay 
in his house from supper-time to breakfast, for he did not want them 
dissipating in the wild night-life of the mining-camp town. His scorn 
for the keepers of the city's bagnios was intense. He wrote, "Mrs. 
Caswell on 3rd and K had a fine brick house. Her man came in one 
day I had the only preserved peaches in town. I asked $96 for 
them. They could afford such luxuries. Said he, 'Will you send it in?' 
Said I, 'Will you take it along? You tell Mrs. Caswell that if she 
pays $96 and takes the peaches along I have no objection, but my 
boys cannot go into her house.' " Of another, he said, "She came along 
with a silk dress trailing half way across the street and asked for 



212 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

corn meal. She said, 'What do you ask for a barrel?' Said I, 'Two 
ounces a barrel.' Said she, c Do you think I am a damn fool?' No, J 
said I. 'I will be frank with you. I have not thought anything about 
you one way or the other/ She gathered her skirts up and went 
across the street." 

With Hopkins, Huntington built up a great hardware business 
in Sacramento and San Francisco. In his relations with his partner 
he lived up to his motto of "Trust all in all or not at all." He said, 
"Not an unkind word ever passed between us. When our articles 
of co-partnership were drawn up, each took a copy and put it away 
and neither ever referred to it again." When "Pacific Railroad crazy" 
Theodore Judah asked him to subscribe to his project, Huntington 
gave nothing; but he asked Judah to come to his office the next 
night, and the small group he had gathered there gave all that was 
needed for the surveys. When Huntington entered the railroad proj 
ect, he says, "People said I had a pretty good hardware store but 
I would leave it in the mountains if I started that road." 

Shrewd financier, he was able to carry a loan of $7,000,000 at 
7 per cent during the stress of the Civil War, while the Union Pacific 
struggled under much higher rates. When Flint, Peabody and Com 
pany of Boston said they could not sell the first issue of $1,500,000 
Central Pacific bonds, Huntington went out on the street in Boston 
and sold them himself. He always got high prices for bonds, for, 
as he told the buyers, it was poor business for both parties to sell 
at $25,000 when the work to be covered by them would cost $40,000. 
In the panic of 1884 a banker in New York paid this tribute to him: 
"I consider Collis Potter Huntington was the key to the arch that 
held up the people here from May to the close of the year. It seemed 
to me as if all the imps at one time were trying to break him down 
but he me all calls made on him without wavering. Yet the shrink 
age of his properties must have amounted to millions ; still he never 
asked any special favors, and paid up whenever money was wanted." 

When he wanted rails and Thomas C. Durant had advertised a 
blanket order for 60,000 tons, Huntington told the steel-makers that he 
knew the Union Pacific couldn't use that many and that he himself had 
plenty. The steel-makers decided not to raise the price; whereupon 
Huntington suddenly ordered from each mill the amount he thought 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 213 

it would supply without raising the price and then sent acceptances 
to all of them at once; thus he got a total of 60,000 tons at his 
own figure, while Durant's advertisements for bids were ignored. "Not 
a boy in the office knew I wanted those rails;' he said gleefully. 

When ships were hard to obtain, he succeeded in cornering the 
market in a deal which was typical of his crafty business methods. 
He went to a ship-broker, E. B. Sutton, in New York, and the fol 
lowing exchange took place: 

I said, "Well, I want to get a good ship a good steady ship safe!" I 
said, "You go out and run around and give me a list of what you can find." 
He came in with three or four. He said, '"You can have this one for so 
much and this one for so much." "Such a price," said I. "It is too high. I 
can't take one of these ships." "I am in no hurry," said I. "Ships are 
coming in all along." Well, he came back; he went out three times and he 

came back with twenty-three ships I got them all down whilst talking. 

"Well," said I, suddenly, "I will take them." "Take them," said he, "take 
what?" Said I, "I will take these ships if they are A-i." "Well," he said ; 
"I can't let you have them! I thought you wanted only one.' 7 He said, "I 
will have to have two or three of them myself." Well, those ships took 
about 45,000 tons of rails. Mr. Sutton told me afterwards, "Huntington, 
you would have had to pay $10 per ton at least, more, if I had known 
you wanted all those ships. That would have been $450,000." 

In his relations with his workers Huntington always tried to get 
them to save their salaries and invest in homes, and he frequently 
made arrangements to help them buy property. He said, "There is 
one trouble in this country; employers don't go in among their men 
and consult with them. Everybody can find somebody below him. 
It don't cost anything to reach out and raise him up a little higher." 
To the people who traded in his store he was generous. He showed 
confidence in the worst dead beats and rarely lost money on them. 
He said, "I have sold goods for 51 years. I have trusted people others 
would not trust. I don't know when I remember suing a customer." 
Of labor he said, "I have always stood by the rights of inferiors 
as I understood their rights. Labor lies at the very foundations of 
society and our art, sciences and civilization. The aristocracy of labor 
is my aristocracy." 

He showed his attention to detail when he started making gifts 
to Hampton Institute for Negroes in Virginia. Beginning with a gift 



214 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of $50 in 1875, he soon added $1,000, the interest of which would 
pay the tuition of a colored student. Then, when the Institute began 
its industrial works with the gift of an 80 horse-power Corliss engine, 
Huntington sent his lawyers down to make a thorough investigation, 
after which he inquired the cost of the work to date and sent his 
check for $r 0,000 to cover it. During the two following years he 
made other gifts and then gave Corliss $4,000, the price of his engine ; 
altogether his gifts totaled $31,000, covering the whole cost of the 
work. He said he wanted the blacks to have a fair chance, to learn 
thrift and economy ; and on a visit to the works he stood by, watch 
in hand, at seven in the morning to see if they started on time. And 
he told General Samuel C. Armstrong, the founder of the Institute, 
that he would withdraw his help if they taught the higher branches 
of learning, advising him to "let them learn to read and cipher." 

With all his practical shrewdness there was a certain trend towards 
mysticism in Huntington's nature which showed in his dealings with 
men, his trust of those whom others would not trust, and his under 
standing of character. He was fond of poetry, George Crabbe's being 
his favorite; he read Plutarch's Lives, Paradise Lost, and Virgil and 
never looked at a newspaper. He was not without an appreciation 
of nature. He said, "I used to go into the mountains and look around 
for myself; I would take my blanket and lay down and picket my 
horse. I used to enjoy it very much. There was a kind of vastness 
about it that was kind of enjoyable. I could see how the Indians 
liked that kind of a life." He had also something of that taste for 
collecting which marked his nephew Henry, though he would have 
been scandalized to see his own fortune poured out, as it was, for 
the paintings of the old masters. He said, 

I like a good picture, modern pictures ; old masters you cannot get them 
the prices are fabulous. I bought a picture the other day for $25,600; it 
is a story. There are seven figures in it three cardinals of the different 
orders of their religion. There is an old missionary that has just returned; 
he is showing his scars, where his hands are cut all over; he is telling a 
story to these cardinals; they are dressed in luxury. One of them is playing 
with a dog; one is asleep; there is only one looking at him looking at 
him with that kind of an expression saying what a fool you are that you 



SAN FRANCISCO AND THE GOLD-RUSH 215 

should go out and suffer for the human race when we have such a good 
time at home. I lose the picture in the story when I look at it. I sometimes 
sit half an hour looking at that picture. 

From the outset of the railroad project Huntington counseled mod 
eration. "Now don't let's talk about a Pacific Road/ 7 he said. "Let's 
always keep in control what we build. Now don't spread yourself. 
We will meet somebody beyond. Let's go slow and steady and own 
what we build." As a result of this policy the Central Pacific built 
one section at a time and developed a paying traffic as it went, trust 
ing to luck to meet the Union Pacific as far east as possible. When 
the latter road commenced to build, the Central Pacific had already 
reached Newcastle and enjoyed a profitable traffic. It was Hunting- 
ton's generalship that successfully shouldered the finances for the first 
four years, when he borrowed from every bank where any of the 
partners had any credit, at one time owing William E. Dodge and 
Company $3,250,000. He believed in keeping money at work and 
said, "I would rather have an old sow and pigs than all the money 
in the world if I had to keep it locked up." In his Reminiscences 
his chief engineer, Henry Root, said of him, "He liked to talk of 
what he did when he was young and took great satisfaction in his 
financial success. He liked to have us think he was close in money 
matters, saying, 'Nobody can track me by the quarters I have dropped.' 
But when there were several along at lunch or dinner he always wanted 
to pay the bill for all." 

The man who interviewed him for Bancroft said he was genial, 
sweet-tempered, polite, but added, "Mr. Huntington is a story teller 
and upon intimate acquaintance indulges in those which are outre 
in mixed society." He also recounted how Huntington left his private 
car in El Paso in order to go down and call at the house of an 
old friend, Mike Brannigan, who drove a hack. While he showed 
some sympathy with Chinese workmen, saying, "They know so much 
more than our people in many things," Huntington had no patience 
with those who would depreciate the accomplishments of Americans. 
In Paris he told newspaper reporters that the "United States can 
get up an international exhibition that will discount anything the 
world has ever seen. American engineers can, if they want to, build 



2l6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

an Eiffel Tower a mile high which will last 1,000 years, this being 
simply a matter of enlarging your base." 

Concerning railroads Huntington said, "My ideas don't agree 
they don't coincide with anybody on the legislation of railroads. I 
think a railroad should be treated just like any other kind of prop 
erty handle it for the best of the community. Competition will regu 
late prices of fares and things and business interests. These things 
will regulate themselves. You cannot, in my opinion, legislate in 
telligently." And he always stoutly maintained that he never bought 
a vote in Congress, though he remarked sagely that "If you have 
to pay money to have the right thing done, it is only just and fair 
to do it." It was all a game to him, a game in which he played his 
hand with courage and finesse. "I like to do things," he said. "It 
has been a great pastime to me- in all my little dealings. I have 
got a good deal of sport out of it." 

These were the men who built the Central Pacific, and whatever 
may be thought of the methods by which they obtained and held 
a monopoly of California's railroads, it must be conceded that they 
had courage, imagination, and tenacity of purpose. And without men 
of those qualities the railroads would not have been built. Those 
four men found in the project of railway-building a channel for the 
use of their fullest powers, and within their lifetimes they built up 
one of the world's largest corporations, a railway system operating 
11,152 miles of track and earning in one year an operating revenue 
of $282,000,000. They put their mark on California, for better or 
for worse, and at least two of them left benefactions which will keep 
their memories pleasantly green when their hard practices have been 
obscured by time the matchless library of rare books and art gallery 
at Pasadena, which was built by Collis Huntington's nephew who 
interited most of his fortune, and the great university built by Leland 
Stanford at Palo Alto. 



CHAPTER IX 

BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 

THE Central Pacific Railway Company was incorporated on 
June 28, 1861; the Federal Government passed the Pacific 
Railroad Act on July i, 1862, and San Francisco disported 
itself with a celebration worthy of the event. Houses on the hills 
were lit up with candles in every window, hotels were hung with 
Chinese lanterns, and there was a grand parade with rockets, lamps, 
torches, Roman candles, and fifty illuminated transparencies bearing 
such sentiments as these: 

Little Indian boy, step out of the way for the Big Ingine. 

A union of lakes, a union of lands 
A union of states none can sever 
A union of hearts, a union of hands 
And the Railroad Unites Us Forever. 

San Francisco in 1862 100,000 inhabitants 
San Francisco in 1872 1,000,000 inhabitants. 

The Pacific Railroad Uncle Sam's waistband. 

He has grown so corpulent he would burst without it. 

The Locomotive that makes the first through trip: 
We can't pay too much for its whistle! 

Chesapeake Bay Oysters Six Days From The Water. 

But the jubilation was succeeded by months of pessimism, when 
the railroad was considered an impractical dream, and money could 
not be raised. When the time came for driving the first spike at 
Sacramento, the canny Huntington remarked, "If you want to jubilate 
in driving the first spike here, go ahead and do it. I don't. These 
mountains look too ugly and I see too much work ahead. . . . We 
may fail and I want to have as few people know it as we can. , . . 

217 



2l8 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Anybody can drive the first spike but there are many months of hard 
labor and unrest between the first and the last spike." 

Yet the Big Four went forward with their gigantic task, bending 
all their energies and talents to pushing the railroad through the 
mountains. They drove the road rapidly through the lowlands and 
foothills, where the deserted mines had now been supplanted by 
flourishing vineyards, orchards, and fields of grain; they continued 
into the forests where sawmills cut the timber ; they went on to the 
hydraulic mining claims and up into the clouds, where trestles spanned 
dizzy heights, tunnels bored the rocks, and snow lingered even in 
July, compelling the building of massive wooden corridors or snow- 
sheds to protect the line in winter. As the road went forward toward 
the rich traffic of the Comstock country in Nevada, it paid its way., 
which was more than the Union Pacific could do. And Huntington was 
able to get a bill through Congress permitting the Central Pacific to 
pass beyond the Nevada line and meet the Union Pacific tracks as far 
east as it could build, thus inaugurating the race between the two 
roads. He often said that if he could have had the support of San 
Francisco capital at this time, he could have built clear into Salt 
Lake and captured that trade for California. But Mills and the other 
capitalists gave him little besides moral support. Capital was always 
skeptical, and one London railroad man said the road could not be 
completed through the mountains in 20 years with all the money 
of the Bank of England back of it. Nevertheless, in 1869, seven years 
ahead of Its time-limit, the tracks were joined, and the way was 
prepared for San Francisco to become the terminal point for rail 
and water transportation between the Orient and the Atlantic 
seaboard and the largest center of population on the Pacific 
coast. 

While its connections with the East were being forged, the city 
had been steadily growing, preparing for the greater day that was 
to be hers as the commercial and transportation center of the western 
half of the continent. Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Re 
publican, visited the city during 1869 and described it in his book 
Our New West. From the days of '49 the metropolis on the Bay had 
held first place in the affections of the Pacific, all the people west of 
the Rockies feeling a peculiar personal pride in San Francisco, the city 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 2IQ 

that had always been the one bright spot in the miner's desolate life. 
To Bowles its fascination was hard to define. 

It is like the magnetism of an ugly or very improper person. The town 
sprawls over the coarse sand hills that have rolled and blown up, the 
business streets are chiefly on made land under the hills and by the bay. 
Many hills are so steep that it is impossible to drive upon them, and the 
houses are perched up in the air. Often one finds a suburban street blocked 
with fresh sand. There is sand and dust everywhere, such as would be the 
despair of a New England housewife, but the winds give health, and keep 
the town fresh and clean. No other American city holds in its midst such 
sweeping views or is more favorable to the growth of roses, evergreens, 
geraniums, they blossom all the year around. The town is constantly in 
the draft, for the hills open at the Golden Gate to let in, like a tide of 
escape steam, the ocean breezes and mists. In winter, between showers, the 
sky is clear, and the air is balmier than in summer, which is so cold and 
windy that people leave town during July and August, 

There is a sharp, full development of all material powers and excellen 
cies, a wealth of practical quality and force; a recklessness and rioting 
with the elements of prosperity; much dash, a certain chivalric honor 
combined with carelessness of word, of integrity, or consequence; a sort 
of gambling, speculating, horse jockeying morality born of the uncer 
tainties of mining, its sudden heights, its equally surprising depths and the 
eager haste to be rich. . . . Wall Street can teach Montgomery Street noth 
ing in the way of bulling and bearing, and the corners made here require 
both quick and long breath to turn without faltering. In consequence of 
the training in vicissitudes and frequent failures, and of the great interests 
and wide regions to be dealt with, the men we find at the head of enter 
prises of the Pacific Coast have great business power a wide practical 
reach, a boldness, a sagacity, a vim which can hardly be matched anywhere 
in the world. This is evident in the Bank of California, the California and 
Oregon Steam Navigation companies, the great woolen mills and machine 
shops of San Francisco, the Wells-Fargo Express and Stage Company, in 
the mining companies, especially on the Comstock lode, in the Central 
Pacific Railroad Company, even in the large farms of the interior valleys 
and in the wheat dealing. 

Society is audacious and original, and holds all sorts of elements in 
chaos. There are probably more bachelors, great lusty fellows, who ought 
to be ashamed of themselves, living in hotels or in lodgings in this town 
than in any other place of its size in the world. There is a want of femi 
ninity and of spirituality in the current tone of the town. ... It is a town 
of men and taverns and boarding houses and billiard saloons. 

The ladies dress in good taste but the styles are not so subdued as in 



220 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

our Eastern cities. Extravagance is lamented as a common weakness of 
San Francisco ladies. Perhaps in no other American city would the ladies 
invoice so high per head. Their point lace is deeper, their moire antique 
stiffer, their skirts a trifle longer, their corsage an inch lower, their dia 
monds more brilliant and more of them than the cosmopolite is likely 
to find elsewhere. The famous feature of feminine social life is the lunch 
party from high noon to two o'clock with attendant gossiping. Yet for 
high art in the delicate but industrious scandal-mongering and the vir 
tuous plotting against masculine authority it seems that the New England 
conjunction of twilight and green hyson are much more favorable. How 
much more daintily and delicately the stiletto and the tongue, the knitting 
needle and the eye, can do their sweet work under a little softening of the 
shadows and the inspiration of hot tea on a stomach that has already done 
its duty for the day. 

In many of the materialities of life in excellence of hotels and restau 
rants, in facilities of inter-communication, in all ministrations to the 
sensuous wants of human nature, San Francisco and California already 
set an example to older communities. The hotels are the equals of the 
very best of the Atlantic states; the restaurants are the superiors. The 
European habit of living in lodgings and taking meals at restaurants is 
very much in vogue and has stimulated the character and equalized the 
prices of the cafes. A dinner of several courses with wine is served in 
admirable style after the French form at the best of them for one dollar 
and a half, while a like meal in New York or Boston would cost four or 
five dollars. Food is certainly much cheaper in San Francisco than eastern 
cities, and wages and profits higher. The free and easy reckless extrava 
gance of early California is not wholly outgrown; in luck today a man 
drinks champagne and flaunts his jewelry at the Occidental; while fortune 
frowning, tomorrow he is sponging his dinners and his drinks from his 
friends, and takes a fifty cent lodging at the What Cheer House. A drink 
at an aristocratic bar is two bits (25 cents), at a more democratic estab 
lishment one bit (10 cents). There is no coin in use less than a dime; one 
of these answers for a bit, two will pass for two bits, but the man who 
often offers two dimes for a quarter is voted a bummer. 

One special pet dissipation, the very trump card of hospitality, is a drive 
to the Cliff House for breakfast and to look at the Seals on the rocks in 
the bay. A night among the Chinese houses and gambling holes is reserved 
for the curious, but the cliff and seals are for all ages and conditions of 
men and women. There is special life in the churches and the Sabbath is 
observed as well as in New York. The demand for ministers is for smart, 
effective orators as well as holy men, and we meet good Presbyterians at 
the opera and at balls as we should not do in the East. 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 221 

Although San Francisco was founded on the profits from the gold- 
fields, it was also a city of silver, for 10 years later it benefited from 
the world's greatest silver-strike, which took place in its back yard, 
Nevada. In their effort to extend their empire from Salt Lake to 
California the Mormons had sent emigrants westward, and one group 
stopped in the Carson Valley of Nevada, where they panned gold in 
1857. But their station at the foot of Mount Davidson and the others 
in canons near-by never yielded any bonanzas, and the miners com 
plained bitterly that as they advanced up the slope of the mountain, 
the gold became less fine, and the bankers in Placerville reduced the 
price from $18 to $13 an ounce because it was so mixed with silver. 
The significance of this fact was never understood by these early 
miners, who looked for gold on the surface only and knew nothing 
about great underground veins of silver. In fact, when he had worked 
over the surface of the Gould and Curry Mine, later to produce 
millions, Alvah Gould sold his half-interest to George Hearst, father 
of William Randolph Hearst, and others for $450, and he congratulated 
himself that he had "done the Californians." But, as usual, Hearst, 
who had come west in 1850 as a laborer, had made a good bargain, 
just as he continued to do in buying claims in California, Montana, 
Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Mexico, and as a partner in the San 
Francisco firm of Haggin and Tevis. In later years, when Hearst was 
enjoying the profits from his Gould and Curry venture, Gould was 
running a peanut-stand in Reno. In this he was typical of many an 
other old-time miner, for almost without exception in the history of 
Western mining the original discoverers of rich strikes died in poverty, 
while fortunes were enjoyed by those who succeeded them in owner 
ship. 

Among the picturesque old miners of the Carson district was Henry 
Thomas Paige Conistock, known as "Old Pancake." From Allen and 
Hosea Grosch, two young New Englanders who had discovered the 
secret of enormous silver-deposits in Gold Canon, Comstock learned 
that the place was rich in treasure. But they died in 1858 before he 
learned that the riches were silver. Nevertheless, he located on claims 
and on farm-land in Gold Canon and found diggings rich in gold. 
When he rode out one day in 1859 and discovered that Peter O'Riley 
and Patrick McLoughlin had made another rich strike of gold, he 



222 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

declared, "You've struck it, boys, and on my land." Claiming to have 
located there the year before with another man, he was so vehement 
and wild-eyed that the Irishmen, rather than have a dispute, added 
his name to their location notices. So, even though his claim was 
doubtful, Comstock shared in the ownership of the property that be 
came the famous Ophir Mine. But none of these miners knew what 
they had discovered ; they dug the gold and threw away the trouble 
some blue-black deposit that was mixed with it the black silver- 
sulphide ore which was later to make this same Comstock Lode the 
richest bonanza in the world. All the half-dozen men connected with 
this first strike, including Comstock, died penniless, but to others it 
brought great fortunes, some of which still endure. 

When a California miner brought some of the discarded black ore 
to Judge Thomas Walsh of Grass Valley, California, to be analyzed, 
and it ran several thousand dollars to the ton, the rush to the silver- 
fields began. During the first winter California miners poured in, 
who, ignorant of how to work a silver-mine, spent most of their time 
in locating claims and trading them in the saloons of Virginia City. 
But bars of silver appeared in San Francisco, and by March of 1860 
the adventurous men from that city began to push through the snow- 
covered passes of the Sierras. The first arrival put up a tent, sold 
$200 worth of drinks the first evening, and rented blankets and a 
place to roll them on the floor for a dollar apiece a night. In the 
spring, men from San Francisco swarmed up the river to Sacramento 
by boat and then traveled from four to six days by stage and mule- 
back over the terrible roads of the Sierras, in bitter cold and with 
only flimsy shacks for night-shelters. But the Californians, who knew 
the overland trail in the days of '49, laughed at these hardships and 
continued to fill Virginia City and the camps round about. The first 
mine to sink a shaft on the Comstock was the Ophir, and it soon 
ran into a vein of silver which widened to 50 feet. This was of such 
extraordinary size and so overladen with loose country rock that the 
miners did not know how to timber it, since the pressure splintered 
the heaviest logs to bits. In this emergency the owners got the Ger 
man engineer Philip Dudesheimer to come up from San Francisco, 
and he designed portable "square sets" of timbering, built up in cribs, 
which solved the problem so successfully that the method is still used. 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 223 

The next problem was the reduction of the ore by chemical pro 
cesses, and among those who skilfully solved this was Adolph Sutro, 
who set up an ore-reduction plant at Dayton. One of those who had 
come across the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco in 1850, Sutro 
now began a career which was to have great influence on Virginia 
City and on San Francisco. Indeed, these two communities, though 
separated by 300 miles and the Sierras, may almost be considered 
as one; for San Francisco furnished the men and supplies for the 
Comstock, its citizens became the leaders of the silver camp, the 
Comstock mining stocks were speculated in on the San Francisco 
mining exchange, the city's money financed the development of the 
mines, and the profits of the silver-strike flowed into San Francisco, 
just as had the profits from the gold of '49. 

Within a few years the bonanza town of Virginia City enjoyed 
easy access to San Francisco over perfectly built toll-roads which 
would be a credit to highway-builders of this day. Over this highway 
traveled a steady procession of wagons, drawn by twenty-mule teams, 
carrying a miscellany of mine machinery, building materials, and 
staple foods, as well as champagne, lobsters, oysters, and caviar; for 
Virginia City had developed into a miniature San Francisco so far 
as its expensive tastes were concerned. It boasted a luxurious hotel, 
the International House; its love of the drama, burlesque, and pro 
fessional fights was served by McGuire's Opera House ; and its news 
paper, the Enterprise, had on its staff no less distinguished a literary 
light than Samuel L. Clemens, who here adopted his nom de plume 
of "Mark Twain." The service of this silver metropolis created a 
freight traffic totaling millions a year in charges, a circumstance which 
forcefully presented itself to Messrs. Huntington, Stanford, Hopkins, 
and Crocker and caused them to build over Judah's route to Dutch 
Flat as quickly as possible, extending wagon-trains from that point 
to Virginia City, so as to capture this lucrative business for the 
Central Pacific. With enormous fortunes being made on the Comstock 
the mining exchange in San Francisco assumed such importance that 
a telegraph line was hastily built to Nevada, and the financing of 
the Virginia City enterprises began to attract the major attention 
of some of the leading San Francisco capitalists. 

Indeed, the king-pin of finance, William C. Ralston, cashier and 



224 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

leading director of the Bank of California, now entered the Virginia 
City arena. Coining from Ohio to California during the gold-rush by 
way of the Isthmus, he had been offered a position as agent for a 
steamship company at Panama; he had remained there for a time 
but later was sent to represent the firm at San Francisco. He had 
gone into the banking business, and in 1864 he induced Darius Ogden 
Mills and others to form the Bank of California, which soon be 
came the most powerful financial institution of the West, agent of 
the Rothschilds and internationally famous. The man Ralston sent 
to Virginia City as the bank's representative, destined to become King 
of the Comstock, was William Sharon, St. Louis lawyer, who had 
come overland to the California gold-fields in '49, started a store 
in Sacramento and later a real-estate office in San Francisco, and 
earned a small fortune. It was said that the appointment was objected 
to on the ground that Sharon was an inveterate poker-player. "What 
kind of a game does he play?" asked Ralston. "Oh, he always wins," 
replied the director. "He's the best player on the coast." "Then/ 5 
said Ralston decisively, "he's the very man we want for our agent." 

When Sharon arrived as manager of the Virginia City branch, local 
banks were lending money at from 3 to 5 per cent a month; he 
promptly offered it at 2 per cent, and the Bank of California soon 
became the chief financier of the Comstock Lode. During 1863-64 
there was a slump in mining, many of the mines having run out of 
rich bonanza ore; but they continued work by levying assessments 
on their stockholders, and Sharon, who had made himself thoroughly 
familiar with the Comstock and had confidence in its possibilities, 
freely lent them money. He also lent money to the owners of the 
mills for reducing ore, for these were idle and had no stockholders 
to assess. Although practically no ore was being produced, millions 
of dollars were invested in reducing equipment which could not be 
sold because the freight-rates back to California were prohibitive. At 
2 per cent a month it did not take long for the interest to pile up 
so high that the Bank of California foreclosed on many of the best 
milling properties on the Comstock. So heavy did the loans become 
that the main business of the bank now seemed to be the financing 
of the Comstock, and it was so deeply involved that it could not 
afford to quit; if the Lode behaved according to the hopes of the 




Fair, 
Hearst, 

Men. 



JAMES G. FAIR JAMES C. FLOOD 

WILLIAM S. O'BRIEN 
GEORGE HEARST JOHN W. MACKAY 

Flood, O'Brien, and Mackay, courtesy of the Society of California Pioneers; 
from Alonzo Phelps, Contemporary Biography of California's Representative 




I 



O M 

P^ * 

HH fl 
> ^ 

O 



o 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 225 

optimistic, the district would become the world's richest producer 
of silver ; if it did not, the bank would fail. 

When Mills and Ralston visited Virginia City, Sharon proved to 
them that it was the bank's duty to step in and reorganize the mining 
industry and systematize wasteful methods ; if they withdrew, he said, 
the whole of Virginia City would be in jeopardy, and San Francisco 
capital as well. So the bankers fearfully continued, and when the 
Bank of California had lent $3,500,000 on Corns tock properties, the 
depression lifted, and the Chollar-Potosi and other mines began to 
strike it rich again. Now that the crisis was passed, Sharon formed 
a scheme to organize a new company to take over all the foreclosed 
properties from the bank, a company which would reap the profits 
from the future development of the Comstock and control its destiny. 
Accordingly, with Ralston, Mills, and a few other San Franciscans, 
Sharon organized the Union Mill and Mining Company, which was 
to monopolize the district and exploit its riches to the utmost, and 
under whose shrewd and efficient methods no time was to be lost 
in developing the Comstock into a bonanza. 

Certainly, it was already a bonanza for the Union Mill and Mining 
Company, for it promptly served notice on the mines that they could 
either send their ore to the company mills for reduction or get no 
more loans from the Bank of California. As a result, independent 
mill-owners were frozen out, their properties fell into the hands of 
the syndicate, and Sharon, Mills, and Ralston made money, even 
though production of ore on the Lode was steadily falling. But money 
continued to pour into Virginia City as the result of assessments on 
the stock. Some mines took out millions in silver, distributed divi 
dends, and then levied an almost equal amount in assessments. The 
only communications many investors ever received from their mines 
were requests for assessments ; the dividends were never forthcoming. 
The insiders worked the mines on the money furnished by a gullible 
public; and whenever a rich strike was discovered, they would buy 
up all the stock on the San Francisco exchange and reap the profit, 
as Sharon did when he bought all available Belcher stock at $6 and 
saw it rise to $1,500 within three months. But if he squeezed the 
investors, he also cut down the costs of operation. When the Union 
Mill and Mining Company entered the field, it cost $50 a ton to 



226 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

reduce the ore; the company was able shortly to effect economies in 
operation which reduced the cost to $14, thus enabling the working 
of much ore that was previously too poor to pay for reduction. 

Having reduced costs, Sharon's next move was to reduce freight- 
charges, especially on timber used in the mines from the Carson River 
sawmills, and to put transportation control in the hands of the 
syndicate. Various railroad schemes had been projected, but Sharon 
suddenly started surveys, bought the charters of the old lines, secured 
a new charter from the legislature and gifts of $500,000 from two 
counties, and in eight months had completed a line from Virginia 
City to Carson City, making the public furnish most of the money 
for construction and keeping control in. the hands of the syndicate. 
Now the reduction in freight-charges made it possible to work low- 
grade ore at a profit, and Sharon declared that it would increase 
the production of the district $5,000,000 a year. Controlling ore-re 
duction and transportation from the sawmills, the syndicate now 
reached out for the forests that supplied the tremendous quantities 
of wood that went into the mines for timbering; widespread fore 
closures on forest-lands, flumes, and sawmills of men who had bor 
rowed from the Bank of California followed, and Mills, Ralston, 
and Sharon soon had a new monopoly and still higher profits. And 
Sharon turned Ms attention to the project of extending the railroad 
to Reno to connect with the Central Pacific, thus to do away with 
all freighting by wagon and give the syndicate absolute control of 
transportation. 

While the Union Mill and Mining Company became the symbol 
of ruthless, grasping monopoly to the mine-owners and merchants 
and citizens of the Comstock Lode, its power was already being 
threatened by two new elements, of whose existence it was hardly 
aware. These were Adolph Sutro and that Irish quartet, Mackay, 
Fair, Flood, and O'Brien. 

In his laboratory in San Francisco Sutro had worked out a process 
of ore-reduction which was most efficient, and in his plant at Dayton 
he had made a profit of $10,000 a month reducing ore from the Gould 
and Curry Mine ; but his contract had expired and his mill had burned, 
and he was speculating on other and more far-reaching projects. As 
the mines on the Comstock Lode went deeper and deeper into the 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 22J 

side of Mount Davidson, they encountered trouble: no longer could 
the ore be raised to the surface by bucket, but steam hoists had to 
be used; in the lower levels floods of water developed, which had 
to be pumped to the surface at great trouble and expense ; the problem 
of ventilation became constantly more serious, and the dangers of 
fire increased. Meditating on these conditions, Sutro decided that 
if a tunnel could be driven four miles into the side of the mountain, 
2,000 feet below the surface of the mines, it would be possible to 
drain them easily, to run the ore out by gravity, to save the water 
for irrigation, to ventilate the mines so that men could work at any 
level, to reduce the fire-hazard, to insure the profitable working of 
lower-grade ores, and to save millions of dollars for the owners. This 
extraordinary scheme became an obsession with him, and in 1865 he 
obtained from the Nevada legislature a charter for a mining and 
drainage tunnel to be finished in eight years. Since the project seemed 
desirable, Sutro was able to get the endorsement not only of the 
leading miners of the district, but also of Ralston and of Sharon, 
who had then just arrived in Virginia City. Armed with this endorse 
ment, he obtained contracts from nineteen leading mines to pay him 
$2 a ton on all the ore they produced after his tunnel had drained 
and ventilated their properties. For this support he agreed to start 
work in 1867, with $3,000,000 subscribed, and to spend $400,000 a 
year on driving the tunnel. Because of the depression in mining, it 
was hard to raise money; but Sutro got the support of all Western 
newspapers, and at Washington he presented a petition asking gov 
ernment aid for the tunnel as a stimulus to mining. He secured the 
passage through Congress of a bill confirming his right to build the 
tunnel and making the validity of the titles of all the mining com 
panies with whom he had contracted for service dependent on their 
fulfilment of the agreement. He then induced the Nevada legislature 
to send a memorial to Congress stating that the tunnel would so 
stimulate mining as to pay the costs of the Civil War, and thus the 
House Committee on Mines was persuaded to recommend a loan of 
$5,000,000. 

But now Sharon, seeing that the scheme would cut the cost of 
treating ore at the tunnel-mouth below that of the syndicate's mills, 
put the whole power of the Bank of California against Sutro's project. 



228 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Banks refused loans, mines tried to cancel contracts, and Sutro was 
forced to go to Europe for funds. Meanwhile, conditions in the mines 
were getting worse: ventilation was almost impossible, floods were 
frequent, and the ore could be got out only with great difficulty and 
expense. The climax was reached in 1869, when fire broke out in 
the Yellow Jacket, Kentuck, and Crown Point mines ; scores were 
killed, and since the flames could not be stopped, it was necessary 
to seal these mines up. Production was low, prices of mining stock 
were depressed, and the miners were still stricken with the memory 
of the awful fire when Sutro held a public meeting for his tunnel. 
He showed the miners how they could easily escape from burning 
mines when the tunnel was finished, how they would always work 
in pure, cool air, and how the scheme would revive the mining in 
dustry. From this group he got $50,000 to go ahead with the project 
even though the Bank of California fought it, and on October 19, 
1869, with banners flying and a brass band blaring, he broke ground 
for his tunnel. 

While the prices of mining stocks were low, two mine superin 
tendents who well knew all the underground passages of the Comstock 
Lode took the opportunity of getting control of what they considered 
the most desirable properties. These men were John W. Mackay, 
who had begun work in the mines as a mucker at a few dollars a 
day and risen to be superintendent of the Caledonia Mine, and James 
G. Fair, superintendent of the Ophir. Both had accumulated some 
money through mine investments. They bought the Bullion and an 
interest in the Kentuck and then turned to the Hale and Norcross, 
whose shares had dropped from $2,100 to $42 on the San Francisco 
Exchange. In buying into these last two properties they met two 
other Irishmen who were also heavily interested, James C. Flood and 
William S. O'Brien, the proprietors of one of the most popular bars 
in the San Francisco financial district. These two men had profited 
from their acquaintance with the mining operators and bankers who 
were their patrons by trading in stocks on the basis of the informa 
tion they received, and they had succeeded in accumulating con 
siderable money. Shrewd business men, they joined forces with the 
young engineers to form what became an unbeatable combination, 
Mackay and Fair furnishing the engineering and mining knowledge, 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 22Q 

Flood and O'Brien the financing. They added the Savage to their 
holdings ; the Hale and Norcross struck it rich : they added the Con 
solidated Virginia, and in this last property, in March, 1873, they 
opened up the big bonanza of the Comstock, a vein 54 feet wide 
which was estimated to contain $116,000,000 worth of ore. Indeed, 
Philip Dudesheimer announced that in this mine and the adjoining 
California, in which the partners were also interested, there was a 
billion and a half worth of silver in sight. Stock in the two mines 
rose to $600 and $700 a share, they produced $2,000,000 a month, 
other mines were booming, and San Francisco entered upon a period 
of mining speculation such as had never before been seen. Cooks, 
waiters, bankers, clergymen every one joined in the buying of stocks. 
The Exchange was a frenzy of excitement brokers actually fainting 
from exhaustion, and the curb was lined with stock-selling women 
who were called "mudhens." 

And now William Ralston, of the Bank of California and the 
Union Mill and Mining Company, began to spend vast sums of 
money on the development of San Francisco, the city that he ex 
pected to make one of the world's greatest. He projected the $6,000,000 
Palace Hotel, the Mission Woolen Mills, the Kimball Carriage Fac 
tory, the Cornell Watch Factory, the West Coast Furniture Factory, 
the San Francisco Sugar Refinery, and the California Theater; he 
started ferry lines to cross the bay, a dry-dock, an irrigation project 
in the San Joaquin Valley, the Rincon Hill cut, and the extension 
of Montgomery Street. His magnificent home at Belmont, down the 
peninsula, had guest-rooms enough for a hotel, a beautiful oval ball 
room lined with mirrors and lighted by a great crystal chandelier, 
and a stable where the horses luxuriated in stalls of polished inlaid 
wood. The Ralston house was a center of California's social life, and 
there the master entertained noted men and women from all over 
the world, driving them out from San Francisco at furious speed in 
his four-horse char-a-bancs. Gertrude Atherton tells of the time Anson 
Burlingame, on his way to the Orient to negotiate a treaty for the 
United States, was a guest. A large company gathered in his honor 
were all seated in the library, when suddenly one wall of the room 
gave a slight shiver and went up like a curtain, revealing an immense 
banquet-hall with a gorgeously decked table and a regiment of Chinese 



230 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

servants in white starched uniforms. Next morning Ralston asked 
Mr. Burlingame to select the site for a town he was about to build; 
it was named in his honor and became the most select suburb of 
San Francisco. 

In 1875 tf* e boom reached its height, and when San Franciscans 
were feverishly speculating on margin and the finances of the whole 
coast were tied up in silver stocks, there came rumors that the mines 
were played out. Immediately stocks crashed on the Exchange, losing 
$60,000,000 in value. The Bank of California failed, Ralston resigned 
at the request of Darius 0. Mills, and a few hours later his body 
was found in the bay suicide, according to his enemies ; an accident 
during his daily swim, in the opinion of his friends and his physician. 

While Sharon and Mills were reorganizing the Bank of California, 
Mackay, Fair, Flood, and O'Brien stepped in and bought up all its 
Comstock properties, which they forced the bank to relinquish, put 
millions into the organization of the Nevada Bank of San Francisco, 
and when the dust cleared away, they ruled the Comstock. Despite 
a $10,000,000 fire which all but destroyed Virginia City, they pros 
pered: Fair was building an ornate mansion on San Francisco's 
fashionable Nob Hill ; Mackay had become a world citizen with town 
houses in Paris and New York ; Flood had built a grand house down 
the peninsula; and O'Brien was disporting himself with his cronies 
in San Francisco bars, giving away silver dollars to all comers. For 
several years profits continued to roll in for these men, even if the 
great mass of speculators had been ruined in the mining boom. But 
in 1877 Squire P. Dewey, an investor in their mines, accused them 
of fraud at the annual meeting of the stockholders of the Consolidated 
Virginia. He declared that their syndicate, the Pacific Mill and Mining 
Company, which had succeeded the Union Mill and Mining Com 
pany, had worked over the tailings from the mills, after the ore had 
been reduced, and gained from them more than $16,000,000 which the 
Bonanza Four had put into their own pockets; that they had also 
gouged all the other mines of the district ; and that they had privately 
prospected the company's properties with diamond drills, boring out 
a long core and analyzing it secretly so as to secure advance informa 
tion as to the value of the ore. 

As the public raged, production in the mines fell off, and dividends 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 23! 

were passed. Meanwhile, Adolph Sutro, in spite of the opposition 
of the Bonanza Kings, had gone on with his tunnel. He had got the 
House Committee on Mines to report favorably on a loan* of $2,- 
000,000, in spite of expert testimony against it by scores of witnesses 
who had been assembled by the old Bank of California. He obtained 
loans from English bankers and kept hundreds of men at work on the 
excavation. To circumvent him in Washington, Sharon had got him 
self elected Senator, his enemies said at a cost of $500,000, and 
Sutro's bill in Congress had been defeated. Even when the head of 
the London banking house of McCalmont, which was financing him, 
was stricken with paralysis, Sutro raised enough money from other 
sources to go on, and on July 8, 1878, stripped to the waist, he fired 
the shot that broke the 2 0,000- foot tunnel through into the Savage 
Mine. The inrush of the outer air was so strong that it almost knocked 
the men off their feet, as it swept out the smoke, gas, and dust that 
had accumulated for years and had made work in the lower levels 
of the mine a misery. Very soon after this event a mine was flooded, 
and a profitable agreement was made by the Sutro Tunnel Company 
to drain it. The Hale and Norcross and the Belcher also shortly got 
into difficulties with floods and made terms with Sutro, and soon 
all the mines fell into line. But the new ruler of the Comstock, hav 
ing triumphed, did not long remain ; he sold out within a few years, 
took his profits, and turned his attention to developing San Francisco. 
Although the mines furnished San Francisco with plenty of money 
and excitement, it was to the railroads that she owed her more 
permanent prosperity. Having completed the Central Pacific and tasted 
the rich profits that came from it, Messrs. Stanford, Huntington, 
Hopkins, and Crocker began to have larger visions of railroad-build 
ing. To the southeast of California they saw other railroad promoters 
making plans to build into the state; from the north they were 
threatened with an extension of the Union Pacific to Portland and 
with the building of the Northern Pacific by Henry Villard. Either 
project endangered the Central Pacific, for either would drain off 
transcontinental traffic. Meditating on these dangers, the erstwhile 
merchants determined to dominate the State of California, to keep 
out all other railroads, and to obtain such complete control as to 
be able to dictate freight-chargesin a phrase, to charge all the traffic 



232 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

would bear. To carry out this policy meant a continuation of railroad- 
building on so large a scale as to make the great Central Pacific 
project, which once seemed of such staggering importance, only one 
incident in a program of gigantic scope. It meant, too, the centering 
of all the transportation, and, incidentally, the financial system, of 
the Pacific Coast in San Francisco, whither the partners had moved 
the headquarters of their road. And however much San Francisco, 
in the darker moments of later days, may have maligned the Southern 
Pacific, which was to be the chief instrument of the partners' domi 
nance, and declared it to be a monopolistic incubus, hanging on the 
neck of the state like the Old Man of the Sea, it has nevertheless 
been one of the main factors in building up California and in making 
San Francisco a great city. 

The partners began to carry out their bold design by bottling up 
the Bay ,of San Francisco. As General Smith had long since pointed 
out, the city occupies a narrow peninsula of land, 30 miles long, on 
the southwest side of the bay, and the dimensions of the harbor are 
so large as to make it difficult of access from the mainland. To this 
day passengers from the north and east leave their trains across the 
bay and enter the city by ferry, which is a quicker and more con 
venient approach. So the Big Four determined first to control all 
the avenues of entrance at the north and east, then those at the 
south, and having thus blocked the access of rival railroads to San 
Francisco, to extend their lines north to Portland and southeast across 
the continent to establish direct connection with the Atlantic Coast. 
Since they did not broadcast this scheme, it was only as they executed 
it, piece by piece, that the public began to be aware that San Francisco 
was to be the focal point of a nation-wide railroad system to be built 
by four of her own citizens, and that the state was to come into their 
absolute control commercially, industrially, politically. 

In September, 1869, the Pacific railroad was open for traffic from 
Omaha to Sacramento, but not as yet to San Francisco. Travel con 
ditions were far from ideal: the speed was only 19 miles an hour, 
cars were heated with smoky stoves, sleeping-car accommodations 
were scanty, and the trains lurched around curves and labored up 
steep grades that had to be eliminated later. But, even though im 
perfect, transcontinental travel was at last a fact, and freight and 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 233 

passengers had begun to enter and leave California by rail. Obviously, 
the Central Pacific could not be considered completed until it reached 
the Bay, and the Big Four made their first step in this direction by 
obtaining control of a short railroad running from Sacramento to 
San Jose, which had been built in 1860 by local capitalists. Next they 
built a branch to Oakland and acquired a virtual monopoly in the 
Oakland water-front, from which ferry connections could quickly be 
made with San Francisco. They then turned their attention to San 
Francisco itself and almost succeeded in tying up its water-front 
through grants from the state legislature, but the newspapers made 
such an outcry that the grants were reduced, although the railroad 
still received 60 acres of valuable water-front and terminal property. 
Through Congress the company tried to get control of Goat Island, 
now Yerba Buena, lying part way between Oakland and San Francisco, 
which was later to be the first stopping-place of the great bridge 
commenced in 1933 with aid granted by the Reconstruction Finance 
Corporation; but there was another outcry from the people of the 
city, and the railroad did not get this terminal. The company then 
purchased two small railroads connecting San Francisco with Alameda 
and Oakland, and thus by 1870 its entry into San Francisco was 
completed. 

The Big Four next took over another short railroad running from 
Sacramento to Vallejo, extended it to Benicia, and put in a ferry 
service to Port Costa, thus throwing an arm of defense clear across 
the north side of the bay. They then bought the line from San Jose 
to San Francisco, which had been built by citizens of the two towns, 
completing their net around the harbor north, south, and east. To 
the southeast of San Francisco extended the rich San Joaquin Valley, 
and the partners began their domination of this prosperous farming 
section by absorbing short lines and adding to them until they had 
a through track to Goshen, in the northwest corner of Tulare County. 
Meanwhile, on December 2, 1865, they had organized the Southern 
Pacific Railroad Company, ostensibly a rival of the Central Pacific, 
to build down the edge of the coast to San Diego ; but the real nature 
of this road, as a subsidiary of the Central Pacific, appeared when 
it changed its route from the coast to the center of the state, securing 
permission and grants of land from Congress to build through the 



234 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Tehachapi Pass to Los Angeles and on to Yuma and Needles, Arizona, 
there to connect with transcontinental roads. To keep rivals from 
coming up the coast the partners extended two short branches from 
their line at Gilroy to Soledad, Monterey County, and Tres Finos, 
San Benito County, completing the spinning of the web that cut 
off all approaches to the Bay of San Francisco. 

The immediate effect of the transcontinental railroad connection 
was not all that had been anticipated; for instead of ushering in a 
period of prosperity for California, it permitted some of the San 
Francisco business to be cared for by Chicago, the cessation of con 
struction threw many out of work, and the arrival of hordes of 
emigrants still further depressed wages. Moreover, real-estate values 
had more than discounted the effect of the arrival of the railroad, 
and they dropped; there were droughts in the south; the Nevada 
silver-mine production was slowing down ; and the country as a whole 
was feeling financial stringency. Consequently there was considerable 
dissatisfaction with conditions, and all the discontent was focused 
on the Central Pacific Railroad. While admitting the temporary dis 
advantages of having California's isolation destroyed, however, the 
San Francisco Bulletin remarked that the railroad "has nevertheless 
done more to create a back country for the city than all other things 
combined: ore now pours in from the mines, merchants are afforded 
better opportunity to buy in San Francisco even if Chicago shares 
the advantage, and merchants will visit San Francisco in the next 
ten years from a hundred towns whose names are not yet on a map. 
The railroad has furnished the backing for a great city and the need 
now is for a thousand miles of local railroads in California." 

There was, however, considerable agitation against the Central 
Pacific: each town thought rates were too high and that it was being 
discriminated against; the state began efforts at regulation, and the 
railroad began a carefully planned publicity and political campaign to 
protect its interests. Stanford appealed to the public through letters 
to private organizations, newspaper articles, and testimony before 
legislative bodies, setting forth the idea that agitation against the 
railroads was based on misunderstanding of facts. Railroad rates, he 
said, were cheaper in California than in other states; if the people 
wanted them lower, they must not put added burdens on the roads; 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 235 

If the state wanted to control them, it must buy the roads and pay 
the owners their full value. As president of the Central Pacific, Stan 
ford attended to local political and business matters, with the as 
sistance of Crocker, Hopkins, and, later, of General David D. Colton. 
Huntington, in Washington, New York, and Boston, looking after 
the tremendous problem of financing and of lobbying in Congress. 
Thus the influence of the Big Four in both state and national politics 
became formidable. In California their interests were involved in al 
most every department of state and local government; among their 
special concerns in Washington was the postponement of repayment 
or the cancellation of the Central Pacific loan by the Federal Gov 
ernment, and the defeat of the plans of Thomas A. Scott, president 
of the Pennsylvania, who sought to build a railroad from Texas to 
the Pacific. 

The Texas and Pacific Railway Company was chartered on March 
3, 1871. The eastern section of the road consisted of two branches: 
The Northern, starting from Texarkana, a point on the Red River 
opposite the terminus in Arkansas of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad 
which gave direct connections with the north and east; and the 
southern, starting from Marshall, 50 miles west of Shreveport, the 
principal shipping-point on the Red River, with rail connections with 
New Orleans, Vicksburg, and the railroad and water transportation 
centers of the southern and Atlantic states. The two branches were to 
converge at Fort Worth, where they were to unite, forming a main 
line near the ssd parallel to San Diego, California. 

Having conceived the idea that the Big Four must monopolize the 
railroad business of California, Huntington was determined that no 
rival line from the east should reach San Francisco Bay or any 
other California harbor. While Scott secured government subsidies to 
build his Texas and Pacific to the harbor of San Diego, Hunting- 
ton did the same for building from San Francisco to Yuma, 
Arizona, there to meet Scott's road from the east. But Huntington 
sought to persuade Congress to forbid the Texas road from building 
west of Yuma, because, he said, it would compete with his road 
and there was not enough business for two, and also to permit the 
Southern Pacific to build eastward until it met the Texas and Pacific, 
just as the Central Pacific had met the Union Pacific years before. 



236 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

In his letters to General Colton, Himtington gives an interesting 
picture of his activities at the national capital, of the fight between 
the two railroad-builders, and of the general tactics of lobbying in 
that day. Extracts from these letters follow, all dated from New 
York: 

Nov. 20, 1874 

Scott is prepared to pay or promises to pay a large amount of money 
to pass his bill but I do not think he can pass it, although I think that 
this coming session of Congress will be composed of the hungriest set of 

men that ever got together, and the d only knows what they will do. 

. . . Would it not be well for you to send some party down to Arizona to 
get a bill to build in the Territorial legislature granting the right to build 
a R.R. east from the Colorado River (leaving the river near Fort Mojave), 
have the franchise free from taxation on its property and so that the rates 
of fare and freight cannot be interfered with until the dividends of the 
common stock shall exceed ten per cent? I think that would be as good as 
a land grant, It would not do to have it known that we had any interest in 
it, for the reason that it would cost us much more money to get such a 
bill through if it was known that it was for us. And then Scott would fight 
it if he thought we had anything to do with it. If such a bill was passed I 
think there could at least be got from Congress a wide strip for right of 
way, machine shops, etc. 

Sept. 2?, 1875 

Scott is making the strongest possible effort to pass his bill the coming 
session of Congress. If we had a franchise to build a road or two roads 
through Arizona (we contracting, but having it in the name of another 
party) then have some party in Washington to make a local fight and 
asking for the guarantee of their bonds by the United States, and if that 
could* not be obtained, offering to build the road without any, and it could 
be used against Scott in such a way that I do not believe any politician 
would dare to vote for it. Could you have [Governor] Safford call the 
{Arizona] legislature together and grant such charters as we want at a 
cost of say $25,000? If we could get such a charter as I spoke of to you 
it would be worth much money to us. 

Dec. 22, 1875 

The committee is not necessarily a Texas Pacific but it is a commercial 
com. aed I have not much fear that they can be convinced that ours is the 
rigbt Ml for the country. If things could have been left as we fixed them 
last winter there would have been little difficulty in defeating Scott's bill. 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 237 

but their argument is it is controlled by the Central. That does not amount 
to much beyond this: It allows a member to vote for Scott's bill for one 
reason, and give the other, that it was to break up a great monopoly, etc. 
If these damn interviewers would keep out of the way it would be much 
easier traveling. 

Jan. 17, 1876 

I have received several letters and telegrams from Washington today, all 
calling me there, as Scott will certainly pass his Texas Pacific bill if I do 
not come over ---- It costs money to fix things so that I would know that 
his bill would not pass. I believe with $200,000 I can pass our bill, but I 
take it that it is not worth that much to us. 

April 27, 1876 

Scott has several parties here that I think do nothing else except write 
against the Central Pacific and its managers and get them published in 
such papers as he can get to publish them at small cost, then sends the 
papers everywhere, and there is no doubt that he has done much to turn 
public sentiment against us ____ If he wants some committeeman away he 
gets some fellow (his next friend) to ask him to take a ride to New York 
or anywhere else, of course on a free pass, and away they go together. . . . 
Scott has had a large number of that drunken, worthless dog Piper's 
speeches printed and sent them broadcast over the country. 

March 7, 1877 

I stayed on in Washington two days to fix up the R. R. Committee in the 
Senate. Scott was there working for the same thing, but I beat him for 
once, certain. 

March 14 



After the Senate R. R. Committee was made up Scott went to Washington 
in a special train, and got one of our men off and one of his on, but they 
did not give him the com. 

Oct. 5, i%77 

Sec. of War in Washington when the first order went out to stop work on 
the bridge. . . . Sec. of the Interior had his war paint on and was to attack 
us in his message, etc., etc. 

Nov. p, i#77 

Some parties are making great effort to pass a bill through Congress that 
wfll compel the U. P. and C. P. to pay large sums into a sinking fund, and 



238 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

I have some fears that such a bill may pass Jay Gould's enemies are 

in it and will pay money to pass. 

Dec. 17, 1877 

The Texas and Pacific Company have been fighting us for years but have 
had but little money, but have used passes and promises largely; but the 
latter, as they say ? is about played out, and some little time ago they 
joined teams, as I am told, with the N. P. They had a little money to use 
as they had no mortgages or floating debt. . . Jay Gould went to Wash 
ington. . . . Since which time much money has been used very freely . . . and 
some parties have been hard at work at the T. & P.-N. P. that never work 
except for ready cash. 

May 3, 1878 

The Texas and Pacific folks are working hard on their bill, and say they 
are sure to pass it, but I do not believe it. They offered one M. C. one 
thousand dollars cash, five thousand when the bill was passed, and ten 
thousand of the bonds, when they got them, if he would vote for the bill. 

Before a Committee of the House in 1875 Huntington introduced 
General Colton as the representative of the Southern Pacific, saying 
modestly that he himself had "a small interest" in the railroad and 
that the Central Pacific owned only a bare two-sevenths of the stock. 
Scott declared that his road must get to tide-water at San Diego 
and that there was no good route directly east from San Diego, or 
even east through Mexico, so the Texas and Pacific must build to 
Yuma and parallel the Southern Pacific for some miles. Huntington 
objected to this, said he would be delighted to pro-rate the freight 
business to tide-water with the Texas and Pacific and meet the road 
farther east, and added, "Whatever time you give to complete the 
road in, we will agree to cut it in half." And General Colton mildly 
reprimanded Mr. Scott by saying, "I am afraid you are trying to 
take business away from the Southern Pacific!" 

Huntington brought up Scott's past record of railroad construction 
and monopoly in an unfavorable light, and he even offered to build 
the Southern Pacific through to the East without any subsidy what 
ever. When Scott appeared before the Senate Committee, he took 
three or four hours ; Huntington took ten minutes. When Scott said, 
"We are beating you," Huntington replied, "Yes, that is the way I 
should state it because you are beating me out of nine things and 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 239 

I shall only beat you in one. You will beat me in demoralizing the 
press ; you will beat me in sending colporteurs over the United States 
to get petitions to your bill ; you will beat me in getting Boards of 
Trade; you will beat me in this and that, but in building the road, 
that is one thing I shall beat you/' While the controversy was going 
on, the Southern Pacific was steadily building, first to Yuma, then 
beyond. Huntington said if he had dealt with Scott alone, they could 
have reached an agreement. He first offered to meet him at Yuma, 
but Scott's friends urged him to keep up the fight to get the full 
government subsidy of $68,000,000 to build to San Diego. Within a 
year the Southern Pacific had reached Yuma, and Huntington said, 
"I will meet you at Tucson" ; but Scott would not accept. Next year 
Huntington said, "We will meet you at El Paso that will make 
you build 600 miles, we 200 miles." But Scott refused to say definitely; 
he had to consult his friends first. Huntington said he would get his 
final reply at seven next morning, and when he sent a man to Scott's 
hotel, he found him not yet dressed and with no definite reply. So 
Huntington went before a Committee of the House that morning 
and obtained a vote of eight to five in favor of permitting the Southern 
Pacific to build to the East. 

Scott said Huntington was the hardest block he Had ever stumbled 
against. And Huntington said of his rival, "Tom Scott was as clever a 
man as ever lived but he died from turning night into day and day 
into night. No man can live and do hard work transposing night into 
day. He started from an office boy swept out the office ; he grew up 
and died . . . worth six or seven millions." And Stanford said of Scott's 
project, in the San Francisco Chronicle of May 19, 1875: 

The people of San Francisco will never appreciate how great a danger 
menaced them, nor how great a peril they escaped. Had Tom Scott built 
his road to the Pacific, he would have taken from us our best prospective 
traffic and carried it east. . . . He would have given San Francisco a blow 
from which she never would have recovered. We are quietly but resolutely 
expending our every exertion to build the Southern Pacific Railroad. We 
are toiling for the greatest prize this continent affords. . . . Magnificent des 
tiny awaits this city when we shall have brought to its doors the vast 
trade of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, Chihuahua, for it is nothing less 
than this we are striving for. 



240 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Just as the partners had raced the Union Pacific in getting to 
Salt Lake, they raced the Texas and Pacific and every other road 
that might intend to reach California over the desert from the south 
east. Despite government orders forbidding it, they had laid rails 
across the Yuma Indian Reservation and built a bridge over the 
Colorado River; they had hurried through Arizona, New Mexico, 
and Texas almost to Louisiana, where they purchased a short line to 
New Orleans from the Morgan interests, giving the Southern Pacific 
an outlet from San Francisco to the Atlantic. In 1887 they had com 
pleted a line north to Portland, Oregon, and as a culmination of their 
building efforts the partners consolidated all sections of their rail 
road network in the Southern Pacific Company, organized under the 
beneficent laws of Kentucky, which, from its office in Anchorage, 
Kentucky, has since been the legal holding company for the vast 
Southern Pacific system. 

But all this was accomplished only through the most strenuous 
lobbying efforts on the part of Huntington. "I have thought I could 
stand anything," he wrote, "but I am fearful this damnation Con 
gress will kill me. I returned from Washington last night and I am 
as near used up as I ever was in my life before. I am spending my last 
winter at Washington, As I feel to-day I would not agree to spend 
another there for all the property we have." In later years it was 
claimed that millions were spent influencing votes in Congress, but 
Huntington always denied this. He said it was "bad policy" to buy 
votes. Huge sums of money, however, were paid out by the Big Four 
without vouchers, or merely as "expense" or "legal expense." One of 
Huntiogton's agents at Washington was General Richard Franchot ? and 
when the National Pacific Railroad Commission of 1887 tried to find 
out why he drew $30,000 to $40,000 a year without vouchers, Hunting- 
ton said, "We had to get men to explain a thousand things. A man 
who has not had the experience would hardly imagine the number 
of people that you have to explain these matters to." In reply to the 
query as to why $60,000 was used by Franchot in 1873, Huntington 
said, "He was of strictest integrity and as pure a man as ever lived, 
and when he said to us 'I want $io,ooo/ I knew it was proper to 
let him have it. ... He had to get lots of attorneys to help him." 
When the Commission inquired who these were, he said, "I never 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 24! 

asked him." The Commission wanted to know how Huntington knew 
the attorneys were employed, and he deposed, "Because he told me 
so. He said, Tor these explanations I have to pay out a little here 
and a little there and that aggregates a great deal/ " When asked 
what were the nature of General Franchot's services, Huntington re 
plied, "He was a very honorable man whom I had known since I 
was a boy, and he had my entire confidence." And he sagely con 
cluded that "most of the money was expended, no doubt, to prevent 
Congress and the Departments from robbing us of our property." 

Meanwhile, affairs in California had reached such a state that 
hostile newspapers were accusing the Southern Pacific of all the crimes 
on the calendar, and public feeling was further inflamed by con 
troversy between the company and farmers who had settled on rail 
road lands and claimed that the company did not live up to its agree 
ments concerning these. In one attempt at ejectment of settlers at 
Mussel Slough, Tulare County, several were killed, and the people 
of the state were aroused to bitter indignation. Frank Norris later 
used this incident dramatically in his novel about the Southern Pacific, 
The Octopus. It began to be said that wise people who wanted any 
thing from the State went to the railroad offices in San Francisco 
rather than to the Capitol at Sacramento, and it was a current jest 
that of every three drops of rain that fell in the San Joaquin Valley, 
two belonged to Collis P. Huntington. The fact that the railroad had 
been one of the original importers of Chinese labor was not forgotten, 
and in 1877 a labor-leader, Denis Kearney, began agitation against the 
Chinese, the Pacific Mail Steamship Line, and the Big Four. Meeting 
in a sand-lot on Market Street across from the City Hall and shouting 
the slogan "The Chinese Must Go, 3? Kearney's followers terrorized 
the capitalists of the city and threatened to bum the homes of the 
millionaires on Nob Hill, particularly that of the man who had brought 
^so many Chinese into California, Charles Crocker, who called them 
"sandlotters who seek to play the social reformer under the mask of 
bandit." It was partly as a result of the sand-lot agitation that the 
state formed a new constitution and set up a board of commissioners 
to control the railroads, a board which, curiously enough, never re 
turned a single majority report against the Southern Pacific in 16 
years. 



242 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

All these things were unpleasant enough for Huntington, but most 
unpleasant of all was the fact that the day of reckoning with the 
Government was drawing near the day when the $27,500,000 bor 
rowed to build the Central Pacific must be repaid with accrued inter 
est, a total of from $60,000,000 to $80,000,000. Huntington first asked 
for cancellation of this debt. Then he suggested that the Government 
refer the question of the amount of indebtedness to a committee 
which should take into account the saving to the Government through 
the road's completion before the specified time, the fact that the bonds 
had to be sold at a large discount, the fact that the Government had 
created and subsidized rival transcontinental roads which competed 
with the Central Pacific, and the fact that the railroad had saved the 
Government much money on transportation; these allowances having 
been made on the sum due, the balance was to be divided into semi 
annual payments with interest at 2 per cent to extend over 125 years. 
The opposition pointed out that this refunding scheme was unfair to 
the Government, and Huntington's lobbying met heavy opposition, the 
man who successfully led the fight being none other than the erstwhile 
King of the Comstock, Adolph Sutro. 

Having sold out his tunnel interests for about $5,000,000, Sutro 
had returned to San Francisco, and finding the city in the throes of 
depression and under the domination of Denis Kearney and the sand- 
lot politicians, he had begun to purchase all the land he could lay his 
hands on. Owners who thought the city was going to the dogs were 
only too glad to get rid of their holdings; so Sutro bought until he 
had 2,200 acres, finally being said to own one-tenth of San Francisco. 
Among these properties were large areas of sand-hills in the north 
western part of the city, some of which were on the seashore, and 
Sutro turned his attention to reclaiming and beautifying this unprom 
ising land with the same enthusiasm he had given to his even more 
quixotic scheme of tunnel-building. On the inland sand-hills he planted 
millions of seedlings, being the first importer of the Australian gum- 
tree, the eucalyptus, and he introduced Bermuda and bent-grass to 
hold down the sand, turning the barren waste into what is now Sutro 
Forest. On the high ramparts of his seashore property at Point Lobos 
he planted trees and flowers, laid out lawns and gardens, cut stairways, 
blasted rocks, to produce Sutro Heights. Here was a lovely park, plen- 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 243 

tifully sprinkled with a Teutonic miscellany of statuary of assorted 
sizes, Greek and Victorian, stone deer, gnomes, dogs, Venuses, bac 
chantes, cupids, mountain-goats, and characters from Dickens. To 
these Elysian heights all San Franciscans might freely come to rest 
and play, to gaze across the Golden Gate to Mount Tamalpais, to 
view the misty Faralone Islands out at sea, and from his famous 
Cliff House to look at the Seal Rocks below, a view which had charmed 
people from all over the world. 

As the crowning achievement of this development the master had 
built along the side of the cliff the amazing Sutro Baths, airy and 
graceful, roofed with colored glass, surrounded by terraced galleries 
seating 2,500 people, with six swimming-tanks, one of which looked 
large enough for a boat-race. In this extraordinary structure Sutro 
brought his engineering genius into play by blasting the swimming- 
tanks out of solid rock and harnessing the tides to bring in the sea 
water, both hot and cold. Moreover, he included as museum exhibits 
a bewildering display of statuary, paintings, stuffed animals, fish, the 
arts of Alaska Indians, Roman lamps, tarantulas, needlework, and 
2,500 medallions, and he declared Sutro Heights to be his rarest jewel, 
which he would not sell for a million dollars. 

The immediate cause of Sutro's rancor against Huntington, Stan 
ford, et al., was their refusal to grant a five-cent fare to Sutro Heights. 
The Big Four now controlled the street-railways, had built cable lines 
to their homes on Nob Hill, and had extended the system throughout 
the city, charging a five-cent fare; but to Sutro Heights they operated 
a steam line charging two five-cent fares. For 10 years the railroad had 
charged this lo-cent fare to Sutro Heights, and Sutro now demanded 
the same fare as the rest of the city and the construction of a cable 
line which could take on passengers at every block instead of only at 
the city railroad station. In an interview in the San Francisco Exam 
iner of May 14, 1894, he declared that the Southern Pacific had 
enslaved California and absorbed the street-railways of San Francisco 
and that now its desire was to absorb the Cliff House and the Ocean 
Beach. Having maintained Sutro Heights at an expense of $25,000 a 
year, free to the public, Sutro thought the railroad should cooperate 
with him by reducing the fare. He said that if it would put in a proper 
cable line with good service and a five-cent fare, he would deed Sutro 



244 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Heights to the city as a gift ; if not, he would build the cable himself. 
Then he boarded up the entrance to the park and required a 25-cent 
admission until such time as the railroad should come to terms. 

When he invited Collis P. Huntington and his friends out to see 
the baths, that gentleman said that he was astonished at their splen 
dor. Sutro made his request to Huntington for the cable service and 
told him ; "I will not deal with Fred Crocker because he has no sense" ; 
and when Huntington definitely refused a five-cent fare, Sutro said, 
"I do not want to frighten you because I know you are not a man 
who is easily frightened, but I simply want to tell you what I am 
going to do. I will make you do this before you get through with it." 
Better far for Collis Huntington had he gracefully acceded to Sutro's 
request, but the greatest railroad magnate in the country was not 
going to be dictated to by an insignificant little San Francisco pro 
moter of baths and real estate. So he said "No." And the battle royal 
began. 

From 1894 to 1897 Sutro fought Huntington, who was making the 
effort of his life to get the Government to modify or remit the railroad 
debt. In championing the cause of the people against the railroad 
monopoly Sutro occupied the limelight, and as a result he was elected 
Mayor of San Francisco, receiving more votes than all his four oppo 
nents combined. In 1894, when he opened the campaign, he declared, 
"I can stand abuse. I got twenty-four scrap books full of it when I 
built the Sutro Tunnel, and they are big ones." In 1895 ^ e entered a 
solemn protest to Congress against the passage of any funding bill 
whatever and called upon all men and women to telegraph and write 
protests to all members of both houses. He said he believed the rail 
road was willing to spend $3,000,000, or 20,000 apiece, for the number 
of votes necessary to pass its bill, and he called on the people to "ring 
the alarm bells every day until Congress adjourns. 3 ' The matter being 
held over until the next session, Sutro continued his efforts, and in 
1896 he declared, 

Any funding bill which Congress will be asked to pass will more seri 
ously affect the welfare of the Pacific Coast than any measure which has 
come before the people since California became a state. It means prac 
tically the gift of eighty millions of dollars to C. P. Huntington, and the 
three estates of his partners, and that means the enslavement of our 




WILLIAM SHARON WILLIAM C. RALSTON 

ADOLPH SUTRO 
JOHN P. JONES DARIUS O. MILLS 

Sharon, from H. H. Bancroft, Chronicles of the Builders of the Commonwealth; 
Ralston and Sutro, courtesy of the Society of California Pioneers; Jones and Mills, 
from Alonzo Phelps, Contemporary Biography of California's Representative Men. 




STAGE-COACHES FOR THE NEVADA MINES 

Coaches of the Concord type operated by Wells, Fargo and Company from the 
Central Pacific railhead at Colfax, California, in the Sierra Nevada. From a 
photograph taken in 1865. Courtesy of the Southern Pacific Company. 




ENTRANCE TO THE SUTRO TUNNEL AT SUTRO, NEVADA 
Courtesy of the California State Library. 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 245 

people. The Central Pacific and the Southern Pacific of Kentucky, which 
consist of the same men, have domineered over the people of this coast 
during the existence of these corporations; they are the cause of the ex 
istence of bossism and corruption in nearly all the branches of our state 
and municipal government. 

These are trie men who owe the Government $80,000,000, and after 
having robbed the properties which they held in trust for the United 
States of everything of value, they have the effrontery to ask Congress 
to make them practically a gift of what they owe. If there is any man 
hood or any justice left in the land this measure will be defeated again, 
as it has been already at the two last sessions of Congress. I declare here 
and now that if we don't win this fight I shall be ashamed to live here. 

While Sutro continuously lambasted the Southern Pacific and its 
iniquities at home, Huntington improved each shining hour in Wash 
ington. The New York Evening Post of April 22, 1896, paid its re 
spects to his efforts: "The most pitiable and at the same time the 
most disgusting spectacle that now offends the national capital is the 
Huntington lobby. The list of paid lobbyists and attorneys now num 
bers twenty-eight, and their brazen attempts to influence Congress to 
pass the Pacific Railroad Refunding Bill have become the disgrace 
of the session." When previously interviewed on the matter in New 
York on February i, Huntington had said, "I am paying very little 
attention to the refunding bill. I have, such absolute confidence in 
Congress that I am not worrying at all. I believe they will do what is 
right and fair and that is all we want. We will of course do what they 
command us if we can. If we can't we can't and that is all there is to 
it. If they had taken the offer and advice I gave them in 1871, there 
would have been no trouble like this now. I hardly remember what 
the details were. They were something that would have arrested all 
this though." 

But the onslaught waged by Sutro continued with vigor, the Mayor 
declaring that "if you want to fight a rhinoceros you don't go after 
him with kid gloves ; you take a big club and knock him down." His 
program included mass-meetings, petitions, a request to Kentucky to 
repeal the railroad charter, and the flooding of Congress with sensa 
tional pamphlets, one of which bore the title, "How Congressmen are 
Bribed. The Colton Letters. Declaration of Huntington that Congress 
men are For Sale." All these things received full publicity an the 



24 6 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Hearst papers, as well as in the New York World ; and, indeed, William 
Randolph Hearst made the matter a major issue in his press. He sent 
that master of satirical invective, Ambrose Bierce, to Washington and 
published his daily despatches on the front page of the San Francisco 
Examiner; accompanying him was the most gifted cartoonist of the 
day, Homer Davenport, and between them they made poor Hunting- 
ton's life miserable. Each morning San Francisco woke up to laugh 
at a devastating picture of Uncle Collis, portrayed as pilfering the 
Government in various guises, usually with a sign in the background, 
"Beware of Pickpockets." One cartoon showed a burlesque statue of 
Huntington with the caption, 

He left his grateful country little pelf 
So kindly reared this monument himself. 

And every day Ambrose Bierce lashed out in an article full of biting 
sarcasm, describing what was going on in Washington, liberally be 
sprinkled with such remarks as, "Of our modern forty thieves, Mr. 
Huntington is the surviving thirty-six." When Charles Crocker ex 
plained the loss of the Contract and Finance Company's books by 
saying that the late Mark Hopkins used to destroy things that he 
called "trumpery," Bierce remarked in the Examiner, "Unfortunately 
there is too much reason to believe that both Mr. Hopkins and the 
books have been burned." 

Uncle Collis, meanwhile, called his opponents "as uncanny a crowd 
as ever farmer found lurking around his hen roost." And he plain 
tively declared that "If the Government of the United States, after all 
I have done for it, should decide to give me no consideration and sell 
me out I should make no attempt to prevent it. The Government has 
done nothing for me." If by "selling him out" he meant requiring the 
payment of the Central Pacific debt, that is exactly what the Govern 
ment did. For the Huntington power, strong as it was, could not resist 
the steady barrage of telling shots laid down under the generalship of 
Messrs. Sutro, Hearst, Bierce, and Davenport. In July, 1897, Congress 
passed an act providing for a debt commission to accept nothing less 
than the full principal and interest due. And to the surprise of every 
one, the banking firm of James Speyer and Company of New York, 
which had issued Central Pacific securities, was able to make arrange- 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 247 

ments satisfactory to the Government and Mr. Huntington whereby 
the whole debt was covered by issuing new securities and getting the 
Southern Pacific to guarantee the interest. 

In these years Huntington had joined the other partners on Xob 
Hill, moving into the white Italian palace built by his late colleague 
Colton, not far from where Crocker, Stanford, and Hopkins had built 
their homes. And here they were neighbors to Jim Flood, who sur 
rounded his brownstone mansion with a $30,000 fence of pure brass 
which required the constant attention of one servant to keep it polished. 
Near-by was the house of Flood's partner, Fair, who had been made 
Senator. Fair had quarreled with Mackay, who is said to have sworn 
that "Jim Fair shan't sit in the Senate another term," developed San 
Francisco real estate, built the railroad from San Francisco to Santa 
Cruz, and seen his two daughters marry Herman Oehlrichs and 
William K, Vanderfailt, Jr., in a blaze of social glory. John W. Mackay, 
the Beau Brummel of the Bonanza Kings, having quarreled with 
Jay Gould, joined with James Gordon Bennett, who had attacked 
Gould and the Erie Railway scandals in the New York Herald, to 
form the Postal Telegraph system as a rival to the Western Union. 
He almost wrecked the Nevada Bank when he and Flood tried to 
corner the wheat-market to aid the French Minister of War, General 
Georges Boulanger, in his plan for a war on Prussia ; the institution 
was only saved from failure by Fair and I. W. Hellman of Los An 
geles, who took it over and reorganized it. Mrs. Mackay became the 
leader of American society in Paris and was made a character in 
Ludovic Halevy's novel L'Abbe Const antin. Mackay J s other claim to 
fame was his endowment of the Mackay School of Mines at the 
University of Nevada and, perhaps, the stir created in later years 
when his granddaughter married the Jewish song-writer Irving Berlin. 
Senator William Sharon was not long in recovering from the collapse 
of the Comstock. As an old miner said of him, "He was like a cat 
thrown out of a window always landed on his feet," He was said 
to have made a fortune of $25,000,000, and he succeeded Ralston as 
host at his great Belmont estate and also as promoter of the Palace 
Hotel and the Spring Valley water-works, becoming the largest tax 
payer in San Francisco. Darius Ogden Mills built up one of the 
greatest fortunes on the Pacific Coast, investing heavily in all sorts 



248 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of promotion schemes. His son, Ogden Mills, became Secretary of 
the Treasury under President Hoover. 

Adolph Sutro, always a public benefactor, had given the city a 
statue, "The Triumph of Light," which had been placed atop one 
of its hills and had earned a fervid eulogy from California's favorite 
orator, the Honorable Samuel M. Shortridge, which may be quoted 
in very small part : 

Happy man, you stand to-day upon an eminence which a king might 
envy. Thrice happy man: for after a life spent in works of philanthropy 
and patriotism, a life full rounded and complete, you can seek the eternal 
rest of the grave with the consoling assurance that your name will not 
perish with your bones; for so long as the incoming sailor from the islands 
of the sea shall joyfully catch the light flaming from yonder uplifted 
torch ... so long as this solid granite rests upon the spot made hallowed 
by this day's work ... the name of Adolph Sutro, citizen, philanthropist, 
patriot, will be uttered with emotion, and the example of your life be 
cherished as a rich legacy to the sons and daughters of freedom. 

Sutro had also been collecting fine and rare books and manuscripts, 
including the Sunderland library of the Duke of Marlborough, spend 
ing half a million dollars in building up a splendid library which 
he presented to the City of San Francisco. At his death in 1898 he 
left a trust fund which was to be available in 40 years, when it should 
have totaled $5,000,000 to $10,000,000, to be applied to charities and 
institutions of learning or science and to be used as premiums for 
distinguished scholarship and scientific discovery. .But some of his 
heirs protested, and the courts held that the bequest was invalid 
because the terms were too vague. In recent years a movement was 
begun to build a heroic statue of Sutro on the heights overlooking 
Point Lobos, so as to be visible far inland and out at sea, but this 
memorial died a-borning. And in 1933 the State of California even 
proposed to deprive San Francisco of the Sutro Library on the ground 
of saving the $4,000 a year paid its librarians. 

Huntington's death in 1900 ended the California railroad monopoly 
created by the Big Four. During the settlement of the debt negotia 
tions, civic interests, headed by the Spreckels family, had organized 
a rival road, the San Joaquin Valley Railway Company, to build 
southward to serve the valley for which it was named. In December, 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 249 

1898, this was purchased by the Santa Fe, giving it an entrance 
to San Francisco shortly before Huntington's death. This road had been 
begun in 1895, and by July, 1898, it had a line from Stockton to 
Bakersfield, including a loop through Visalia, a total distance of 278.91 
miles, and work was being actively pushed from Stockton to Point 
Richmond, across the Bay from San Francisco, at the time of the 
line's purchase by the Santa Fe. The work between Stockton and 
Point Richmond proved somewhat more difficult than anticipated, 
owing to peculiarities of soil encountered and to a prolonged rainy 
season ; but it was completed in the year 1900, and connection from 
Point Richmond into San Francisco was provided by ferry ? as is 
the case up to the present time. The entire line from Mojave to San 
Francisco was open for freight purposes on May i, 1900, and for 
passenger service on July i, 1900. 

Meanwhile, the Southern Pacific had gone out of politics, so it 
announced, and Huntington aptly summed up his opinion of the pre 
vailing statesmanship by saying, "There is very little now that divides 
the two parties except the seven great reasons the five loaves and 
the two fishes." Until the end of his life Huntington kept a firm 
grasp on the railroads he had built. It seemed that the old Titan 
would never give up. When he was over 70 he outlined such a vast 
program of railroad expansion to his friend Sir Rivers Wilson that 
that gentleman said in amazement, "But you will have to live fifty 
years to complete such a program!" and Huntington grimly replied, 
"I intend to." After his death his widow and his nephew, Henry E. 
Huntington, sold their stock to the new giant of the railroads, E. H. 
Harriman, who combined the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific in an 
immense system, until the Government dissolved the merger in 1913. 

When Harriman purchased the Oregon Short Line, he closed it to 
the traffic of the Denver and Rio Grande, the old road built by 
General Palmer, who had sold it to George Gould. Then, when Harri 
man bought the Southern Pacific, cutting the Rocky Mountain road out 
of an outlet to the coast, Gould built the Western Pacific from Salt 
Lake to San Francisco, as originally planned by Palmer. W. J. Bart- 
lett, attorney for a San Francisco bank which owned a small rail 
road running from the Stockton water-front to interior coal-mines at 
Tesla, sold this line to Gould together with location for a road along 



250 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the Feather River, and the Western Pacific was built on this route. . 
Its completion took six years, the cost was $60,000,000, and the ex 
pense and interest charges threw the Denver and Rio Grande into 
bankruptcy; but on July i, 1911, the Western Pacific was completed, 
giving San Francisco another outlet to the East. 

A fourth outlet came years later, as a result of the war between 
James J. Hill, the empire-builder, and E. H. Harriman. Hill bought 
the tracks of his Great Northern from St. Paul to Puget Sound and 
then threw a branch line from Spokane to Portland along the north 
bank of the Columbia River. When Hill completed this road, both 
he and his rival, Harriman, sent engineers into central Oregon to 
occupy the Deschutes. River canon with the idea of building a line 
to penetrate California from the north. Hill won and pushed his 
line rapidly down from Columbia to Bend; but then the World 
War came on, and the unsettled finances of that time prevented further 
building. On November 10, 1931, however, Arthur Curtiss James, the 
largest holder of railroad securities in the country, boarded the same 
private car that Jim Hill used to ride to Bend in 1911 and traveled 
to Bieber, California, where he drove the golden spike that marked 
the entry of the Great Northern system into San Francisco territory. 
Following the route for connecting the Sacramento Valley with the 
Columbia that Lieutenant Philip H. Sheridan surveyed for Secretary 
of War Jefferson Davis in 1853, this extension of the Great Northern 
opened a market of 6,000,000 inhabitants to San Francisco. 

Long before this, San Francisco had passed through the ordeal 

of earthquake and fire and had won the admiration of the world by 

her courage and speed in rebuilding. 'On April 18, 1906, four square 

miles, including nearly all the business district, was swept clean; 

28,000 buildings were destroyed, and the stricken people lived in 

tents in Golden Gate Park tents labeled "Camp Thankful," "Camp 

Glory," "Camp Hell" and ate in bread lines. Six days later the 

first contract for rebuilding was signed, and while the debris was still 

warm, work began on clearing the ground, a labor that would have 

baffled Hercules. Thousands of horses were imported, wagons, tools, 

and supplies were sent in by the trainload, and 40,000 men in the 

building trades went to work. Theaters were the first buildings to 

rise, for the nerve-racked people needed relaxation ; then came other 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 251 

buildings uptown on Fillmore Street; and finally downtown Market 
Street, which had been the most heavily affected, and which it was 
predicted would never come back, was rebuilt. Within a few years, 
and with the aid of $750,000,000 in insurance payments, the city had 
risen from its ashes more strongly and more beautifully built than 
before. 

In the rebuilding of San Francisco two men were outstanding : one 
was Hugh S. Johnson, who directed the work of the United States 
Army in the stricken city and who was later to become famous as 
the head of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Recovery 
Administration; the other was E. H. Harriman. As soon as he heard 
of the earthquake and fire, Harriman hastened to San Francisco and 
put all the resources of the Southern Pacific at the disposal of the 
city. He bought vast quantities of food in Los Angeles and rushed 
it to San Francisco; the day after the fire started he moved 1,073 
carloads of refugees out of the city ; he gave gasoline and explosives, 
put the railroad hospital at the service of the sick and injured, opened 
nine information bureaus to supply the city with news bulletins, and 
for five weeks lent the railroad telegraph wires to the Western Union. 
No charge was ever made for these services or for Harriman's own 
work. He gave himself and his railroad freely and completely to 
the city, and it was in large part due to his organizing genius and 
energy that San Francisco was able so quickly to rally from the 
disaster. 

During this time of rebuilding the iniquities of the Rueff-Schmitz 
city government were dramatically unearthed by Fremont Older, who 
was kidnapped during the furore, James D. Phelan, who became mayor, 
and Prosecutor Francis J. Heney, sent to the city by President Roose 
velt. From this reform movement grew the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, 
which elected Hiram W. Johnson governor and was later merged in 
the Progressive Party. In 1915 San Francisco celebrated its rebuilding 
and the opening of the Panama Canal with the Panama-Pacific In 
ternational Exposition, in buildings of fairylike beauty. And every 
night soft bluish lights bathed their rosy walls and marble copings, 
revealing for the first time on a large scale the possibilities of indirect 
electric lighting. Fortunately, one of the masterpieces of this exposi 
tion, the Palace of Art. still stands, its lovely columns rising above 



252 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

blue lagoons as a reminder of the surpassing beauty of that world's 
fair. 

To-day San Francisco remembers her kings of the last century 
chiefly on Nob Hill. The Crocker property was given to the Episcopal 
diocese as the site of Grace Cathedral; the Flood house is now the 
Pacific Union Club ; across the street are the massive Fairmont Hotel, 
built by the Fair family, and the skyscraping Mark Hopkins Hotel, 
around the back of which the feudal stone wall still stands ; the site 
of the adjoining Stanford house is occupied by the Stanford Court 
Apartments; and the Huntington property is now Huntington Park. 
Downtown there is a Flood Building on Market Street, and a great 
bank bears the name of Crocker ; and down the peninsula the brown- 
stone quadrangles of Stanford University spread over the Palo Alto 
"farm" all mementos of 

The good old rule, the simple plan, 

That they should take who have the power 

And they should keep who can. 

They played their part, those ruthless barons of rails and gold and 
land, in making San Francisco great. They helped to swell her wealth, 
to establish her as a world port and a center of Western trade, to 
crown her Queen of the Pacific. Their cunning added power to the 
magnet that drew the bold, the hardy, the restless, the romantic, 
the adventurous across the plains and mountains and the seven seas 
to build the well-beloved city of San Francisco. 

It was these men and their kind who gave San Francisco her unique 
flavor and that dash of devil-may-care naughtiness which has always 
made her interesting, even to the censorious. For generations that 
roaring bit of hell, the Barbary Coast, was famous for iniquity 
wherever sailors sailed. And the reputation of San Francisco as the 
home of crime, dissipation, and excitement moved that choleric satirist 
Ambrose Bierce to remark, "It is the paradise of ignorance, anarchy 
and general yellowness. It needs another quake, another whiff of fire, 
and more than all else a steady trade wind of grape-shot. It is a 
moral penal colony. It is the worst of all our Sodom and Gomorrahs 
in the modern world." The Barbary Coast has long since sunk into 
innocuous desuetude, and the garishly ornamented fronts of the dance- 




THE SKY-LINE OF SAN FRANCISCO FROM THE BAY 
Courtesy of Californians, Inc. 




SAN FRANCISCO'S CIVIC CENTER 

In the background, the City Hall; behind it, the Municipal Opera House and the 
Veterans' War Memorial; left, the Civic Auditorium; right, the State Building; in 
the foreground, the Public Library. Courtesy of Californians, Inc. 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 253 

halls on Pacific Street for years stared vacantly on empty sidewalks 
until a weak replica of its old life was revived for tourists. San Fran 
cisco is not so wicked as she used to be, and she has been thoroughly 
cleansed politically, so that if Ambrose Bierce were to write his descrip 
tive tirade to-day, it would be attributed to nothing worse than a 
morning-after headache. But an aromatic flavor of naughtiness still 
permeates the city, and San Franciscans are rather proud of that fact. 
They feel more metropolitan and sophisticated than their neighbors, 
and they rejoice when Will Rogers remarks, "A Los Angeles man 
coming to San Francisco is just like a country boy going to town," 

Climbing over its steep Telegraph and Russian hills, reaching around 
the blue waters of the bay and out to the whitecapped ocean at the 
west, San Francisco is a city bathed in beauty. On the lower side 
of the Golden Gate the military reservation of the Presidio guarantees 
that streets and houses shall never encroach on that great tree-covered 
park by the sea. Across the Gate are Mount Tamalpais and the green 
hills of Marin County, and over the bay to the east far-spreading cities 
glisten in the sun. From the Cliff House, or from any tall office build 
ing or any hillside house, or along the shore at the old Fair Grounds, 
or at Fisherman's Wharf its bay filled with brown-sailed skiffs and 
its beach lined with drying nets one looks on vistas of surpassing 
beauty. And always the city's electric atmosphere is a tonic; winds 
blow over it, fogs swathe it, and its sun glows white above. 

This San Francisco sunlight typifies the difference between San 
Francisco and Los Angeles. The sun over the southern city is hot, 
bright, effulgent, and relaxing; the sun over San Francisco is pale- 
gold, having in it something of the quality of an electric arc-lamp, 
and never hot enough to enervate. And the cities are the same. Los 
Angeles is full of blazing color, brightness, exotic beauty, and shine; 
San Francisco is gray, subdued, delicately pastel, dignified, even vener 
able. Her magnificent Civic Center might be a group of ancient palace 
and government buildings of an Imperial dynasty. The Los Angeles 
Civic Center gleams white and bright in the sun, its clean, angular 
lines carrying no message from the past, expressing instead the spirit 
of the day yes, of the hour and the minute in terms typically 
modern, typically American. Slow and substantial of growth, sophisti 
cated, serene, indifferent to fate, cosmopolitan San Francisco is poised, 



254 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

sure of herself, a stately dowager In a stomacher, who taps her beauti 
ful and exuberant southern flapper sister disapprovingly with her fan. 

But, however dignified, San Francisco has never outlived, will never 
outlive, her youth. She likes to play and frolic; she loves a good 
time; she is to-day the best show town for the speaking stage out 
side of New York and Chicago. Always she has the joy of living and 
the energy of youth. And if it can be said that California's women are 
beautiful, it can also be said that San Francisco's women are chic. 
As to their poise, one need only observe the nonchalance with which 
a shopper stops dead still in the middle of Market Street to permit two 
clanging street-cars to rush past each other while she stands tightly 
imprisoned in a narrow slot a terrifying experience which leaves 
her apparently unperturbed. 

Above all, San Francisco loves good victuals and good drink. Even 
though times have changed, she has never outgrown those days so 
touchingly described by Will Irwin in The City That Was:* 

Listen! ye starved amidst plenty, to the tale of the Hotel de France. 
This restaurant stood on California Street, just east of old St. Mary's 
Church. One could throw a biscuit from its back window into Chinatown. 
It occupied a big ramshackle house, which had been a mansion of the 
gold days. Louis, the proprietor, was a Frenchman of the Bas Pyrenees; 
and his accent was as thick as his peasant soups. The patrons were French 
men of the poorer class, or young and poor clerks and journalists who 
had discovered the delights of this hostelry. The place exuded a genial 
gaiety, of which Louis, throwing out familiar jokes to right and left as he 
mixed salads and carried dishes, was the head and front. 

First on the bill of fare was the soup thick and clean and good. Next, 
ane of Louis' three cherubic little sons brought on a course of fish sole, 
rock cod, flounders, or smelt with a good French sauce. The third course 
was meat. This came on en bloc; the waiter dropped in the center of each 
table a big roast or boiled joint together with a mustard pot and two big 
dishes of vegetables. Each guest manned the carving knife in turn and 
helped himself to his satisfaction. After that, Louis, with an air of cere 
mony, brought on a big bowl of excellent salad he had mixed himself. For 
beverage there stood by each plate a perfectly cylindrical pint glass filled 
with new, watered claret. The meal closed with fruit in season all that 
the guest cared to eat. I have saved a startling fact to close the paragraph 
the price was fifteen cents! 

* Wffl Irwin, The City That Was (New York, B. W. Huebsch, 1906; now published 
by the Viking Press). 



BUILDING THE CITY BY THE GOLDEN GATE 255 

To-day this city of gaiety and laughter and good living looks back 
longingly on the days when one could get the best table d'hote dinner 
in the world with a bottle of red wine for a dollar. And such names 
as The Poodle Dog, Bergez Frank's, Tail's, Techau Tavern, Papa 
Coppa's, Negro and O'Brien's, Solari's linger lovingly in the memory 
of good San Franciscans. 

Now scores of millions of dollars are being spent on two of the 
largest bridges in the world, which are to cross San Francisco Bay, 
drawing the communities around it together, after a lifetime of dis 
union. The beautiful undulating hills of Marin County, over which 
the live-oaks and cypresses spread in lovely patterns of irregular 
design, are being joined with the Presidio by a bridge across the 
Golden Gate; and the people of the east Bay cities of Oakland, 
Berkeley, Richmond, and Alameda will soon be able to dash quickly 
in their cars over another bridge from Oakland to the San Francisco 
Embarcadero. This welding of the Bay cities into one community 
must inevitably lead to a greater and faster-growing metropolis. But 
San Francisco is not avid for mere numbers. For this "pearl on a 
peninsula' 7 already is laden with other and more precious gifts of 
the gods: she has distinction, beauty, charm, and many lovers. One 
must envy the good fortune of those who are yet to come under her 
spell. When such a one comes for the first time to this glamorous 
city, he will learn to love her cool, gray beauty; he will delight in 
seeing her rise ghostlike on her high hills an uneven, sawtoothed 
Whistler silhouette, dimly outlined against an indefinable sky. And 
sometime he will watch from a ferry at sunset those startling color- 
changes which turn the sky from flaming apricot to blue and then 
to that cool, compassionate, all-encompassing gray which lays its 
mask over the city like a visible hush. At the Golden Gate he will 
see the sun lie low in a bed of cherry coals, flaming between black 
headlands. And then, suddenly, the city will be swallowed up in dark 
ness, and all will vanish save the flashing jewel of Alcatraz, fantastic 
island castle of a pastry-cook's dream. 



CHAPTER X 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA'S FIRST REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 

WHILE San Francisco graciously, indifferently, permitted the 
gods to drop the fruits of fortune into her lap, her sister 
city to the south had to climb the tree and pick the prizes 
with her own fair fingers. Whatever good things Los Angeles has 
obtained and they are many she has herself alone to thank for 
nearly all of them. Her railroads, her harbor, even that basic necessity, 
her water, have been brought to the City of the Angels by sheer force. 
She has attracted, seduced, bullied, and overpowered every one of 
her adversaries, brought them captive into camp, and made them 
like it. Originating in a few dry brown hills 30 miles from a harbor 
that was not a harbor, starting without a railroad, Los Angeles has 
shown the power of mind over matter by promoting herself into the 
great metropolis of the Southwest and one of the most beautiful cities 
in America. 

It was altogether fitting that the first voice crying in the wilderness 
to proclaim the delights and virtues of "Los Angeles, the beautiful, 
with roses in her hair," "should be the seductive voice of the realtor. 
The precursor of those modern sirens who lean from the windows 
of buses parked on Hill Street and lure the unwary pedestrian on 
all-day expeditions to remote subdivisions, with the bait of smiles, 
an automobile-ride, and a free lunch, was none other than Captain 
Fernando de Rivera y Moncada, Commandants of the Spanish prov 
ince of California. And he deserves the proud title of First Realtor of 
Los Angeles. 

In 1781 the Spanish Governor, Felipe de Neve, having decided that 
the fertile soil in this favored spot demanded settlement and desiring to 
grow grain for the army in upper California instead of importing it 
from Mexico, founded El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los 
Angeles, making Los Angeles the first legally ordained city in Cali- 

256 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 257 

fornia. He platted the city six miles square, with a plaza at the center 
around which he laid out building-lots, and a short distance away from 
the town he added a district of seven-acre tracts for planting. Like all 
good realtors, having mapped out the metropolis of the future and 
its suburbs and envisioned it teeming with the annual increase in 
population which was sure to come, de Neve found it necessary to 
begin a little promotion work. So, for the task of letting future in 
habitants in on the ground floor, he despatched to Mexico Captain 
Rivera, a resident of California for eight years (in fact, the first 
white man to enter California by land) charging him with the task 
of describing the beauties of landscape and perfection of climate so 
as to secure at least twenty-four settlers, healthy, strong, and of good 
character, including a mason, a blacksmith, a carpenter, and their 
female relatives, if any. The fact that this early realtor was shortly 
thereafter murdered by the inhabitants may or may not be regarded 
as having a sinister significance. 

At any rate, the settlers came, lured by the offer of free land, which 
they could not sell but which they could bequeath to their children, 
a gift of $116.50 a year for the first two years, $60 for the next 
three, two horses, two cows and a calf, two sheep, two goats, a mule, 
a yoke of oxen, a plow-point, a spade, a hoe, an ax, a sickle, a musket, 
and a leathern shield. Even if more spectacular, the rewards promised 
by the enthusiastic realtors of later years were less practical and im 
mediate in nature, and doubtless the Mexican emigrants thought a 
dollar in the hand worth ten in the bush. So, on the 4th of September, 
1781, an expedition from the Mission San Gabriel set out to the new 
real-estate enterprise of Los Angeles. The Governor led, followed by 
soldiers carrying the gorgeous silken blue banner of Spain ; then came 
the priests of San Gabriel, with their Indian acolytes, and forty-four 
settlers eleven men, eleven women, and twenty-two children. Around 
the plaza this impressive procession marched, while the Indians of 
the original settlement of Yang-na looked on in awe and bewilder 
ment; the priests asked a blessing on the new city, the children 
elevated the banner of the Virgin Mary, and Governor de Neve made 
an address describing the future of Los Angeles, dwelling, doubtless, 
on its matchless climate, its commercial possibilities, and its inevitable 
and extraordinary growth. 



258 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Although the founding of the pueblo of Los Angeles occurred nearly 
250 years after the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes had dis 
covered California, the site was by no means a new discovery. In 
1542 Juan Cabrillo had sailed from San Diego to San Pedro, now 
the port of Los Angeles, and had named Santa Monica harbor the 
"Bay of Smokes/ 7 probably because the Indians of Yang-na were 
engaged in hunting rabbits by setting fire to the prairies, as was 
their custom ; he proceeded up the coast as far as San Francisco but 
did not enter the bay; returning, he died on the Island San Miguel, 
off Santa Barbara, of an infection from a surgery on a broken arm. 
In October, 1767, soon after the first Spanish governor of the Cali- 
fornias, Caspar de Portola, had reached San Diego, he set out on 
a trip in search of the harbor of Monterey, going north by land. As 
his party neared what is now Los Angeles, they crossed the Santa 
Ana River, naming it El Rio del Dulcissimo N ombre de Jesus, but, 
a slight earthquake occurring, they supplemented this to read, "The 
River of the Sweetest Name of Jesus of the Earthquakes. 7 ' They ar 
rived at the Indian village of Yang-na on the 2d of August, which 
was the feast-day, beloved of the Franciscans, of the Virgin patroness 
of their founder's chapel, "St. Mary of the Angels," the hallowed 
Porziuncula ; thus they named the place in her honor, Nuestra Senora 
la Reina de los Angeles de Porciunculo, "Our Lady the Queen of the 
Angels." 

By 1800 there were three pueblos, or towns, in California San 
Jose, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles, and three presidios, or military 
posts San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco. Los Angeles 
consisted of thirty small adobe houses, thatched and covered with 
brea } or tar, taken from pits discovered near-by, pits which after 
wards were to yield extraordinary specimens of the bones of pre 
historic animals. A small dam had been made in the river to provide 
the pueblo with water ; wheat, maize, and vegetables had been planted, 
and a wall erected to keep out the Indians. Three members of the 
community had been expelled on the ground that they were "useless 
to the pueblo and to themselves." One of these migrated to San Fran 
cisco, which the Angelenos no doubt thought an appropriate place for 
him. 

These were days of the great land-grants, made to favored Spanish 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 259 

citizens on application to the governor. In 1785 Juan Jose Dominguez 
received the San Pedro Ranch, three leagues square; to Jose Mafia 
Verdugo went the San Rafael Ranch of the same size; to Manuel 
Nieto all the land between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel rivers, the 
mountains, and the sea. On these princely domains thousands of cattle 
were soon running, the rambling, low, white ranch-houses of adobe 
bricks with red-tile roofs were the centers of a leisurely, opulent, and 
beautiful social life. Hospitality was bountiful: guests were always 
welcome to come and stay as long as they liked ; they were given en 
tertainment, welcomed to the inner patio, where fountains played and 
flowers grew, and under whose cool arches were always set tables fur 
nished with wine and chocolate for the family and guests. Mission and 
ranch vied with each other in caring for the traveler : at each stop a 
caponero of ten or twelve fresh horses would be provided, and a vaquero 
to guide the next day's journey ; and the traveler was always permitted 
to lasso and kill a fat steer for meat if he would leave the hide 
and tallow for the owner's use. Money was not much in evidence, 
for the padres and rancheros supplied their needs by bartering hides 
and tallow with the ships that anchored at San Pedro ; but in each 
guest-room it was customary to place a little pile of coins under 
a napkin, from which the guest was expected to help himself as 
needed. It is recorded that once when an Englishwoman, a stranger, 
attempted to pay for her entertainment, the owner of the ranch knelt 
on the floor and cried in anguish, "Give no money, no money at all. 
Everything is free in a gentleman's house." 

Commerce began in the region around San Pedro, the port of Los 
Angeles, with the hunting of the sea-otter, which had first been dis 
covered in the Aleutian Islands by Bering's men in 1741. So beautiful 
was the fur that the Russians were able to sell single pelts to Chinese 
mandarins, who appreciated it as royalty did ermine, for as much 
as $2,000. In the later Mexican period the whaling industry also dis 
covered the possibilities of the waters around San Pedro, and men 
from Yankee ships were soon keeping the fires hot under their blubber- 
pots and laboring at the presses for extracting the precious oil. Finally 
the cattle ranches became the attraction that drew ships to the 
coast; the hides went to Boston, as did the horns to make combs, 
and the tallow went to Peru. But commerce was always difficult; for 



260 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Spain had laid down the most stringent restrictions on trading. In 
order to stifle competition the Government had decreed that the 
colonists could trade only in Spanish vessels and through a single port, 
Seville. The times of arrival and departure and the methods of trad 
ing were carefully specified, and the colonists were prohibited from 
growing any crops that would compete with Spain, including olives, 
tobacco, hemp, and grapes. As a consequence of these prohibitions the 
Los Angeles district became a community of smugglers; contraband 
trade was carried on with Hawaii, and Yankee clipper ships found 
a warm welcome. A captain would anchor his vessel on the lee side 
of Catalina Island, make a quick dash into San Pedro, exchange his 
goods, and sail away; and so flagrant did the smuggling become that 
the Government was forced to relax its restrictions. When the Mexican 
rule succeeded the Spanish, foreign vessels were admitted to the 
port of Monterey, where they supposedly paid full duties on their 
goods; but it was customary for ships to enter the harbor, get their 
clearance papers, and then lie along the coast while other vessels 
transferred cargo to them which they, in turn, sold to the inhabitants. 
Indeed, smuggling became so common that smugglers were regarded 
as just as respectable as anyone else in the community. 

The Yankee ships were veritable department stores from which 
the ranch-owners could buy everything they desired from decorated 
crystal goblets and carved ivory fans to plows and horseshoes. They 
carried, as Dana remarked, "spirits of all kinds (sold by the cask), 
teas, coffee, sugars, spices, raisins, molasses, hard-ware, crockery-ware, 
tin-ware, cutlery, clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes from Lynn, 
calicoes and cottons from Lowell, crapes, silks; also, shawls, scarfs, 
necklaces, jewelry, and combs for the ladies; furniture; and in fact, 
everything that can be imagined from Chinese fire-works to English 
cart-wheels of which we had a dozen pairs with their iron rims on." 
Luxury, idleness, and ease marked the life of the upper-class Spanish 
in the pastoral age of California. The Californians thrived under the 
blue skies and bracing air of the north and the warm sunshine of 
the south; the men were tall and strong, the women remarkably 
beautiful, graceful, and charming. As a people they were happy and 
contented. Incivility, robbery, fraudulent creditors, and other banes 
of civilization were unknown. Indeed, life was so idyllic that Ban- 







LOS ANGELES IX THE FIFTIES 

Lithograph after a drawing by Charles Koppel in Reports of Explorations and 
Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad 
from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, 1853. 




THE STATION OF THE LOS ANGELES AND SAN PEDRO RAILROAD 
Courtesy of the Southern Pacific Company. 








PHINEAS T. BANNING ELIAS J. BALDWIN 

WILLIAM B. STRONG 
WILLIAM A. CLARK HENRY S. HUNTINGTON 

Banning, from J. M. Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History 
of Los Angeles; Baldwin, from Alonzo Phelps, Contemporary Biography of Cali 
fornia's Representative Men; Strong, courtesy of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe 
Railway; Clark, from Helen F. Sanders, History of Montana; Huntington, courtesy 
of the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 261 

croft says, "It would be difficult to find in any age or place a com 
munity that got more out of life with less trouble, wear, and wicked 
ness than the inhabitants of pastoral California." But the calm of 
ranch and mission was disturbed at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century, when, after the Napoleonic wars, Mexico and the South Amer 
ican provinces rebelled against Spain. In this revolt the Californians 
sided with the mother-country against Mexico ; but the Mexican Em 
pire was soon established, and Spain w T as left with nothing of her 
possessions in the vicinity of America except Cuba and a few other 
islands. On the nth of April, 1822, California became a Mexican 
province. 

Spain probably shed few tears over the loss of California, for the 
province had always been on the wrong side of the ledger. The Govern 
ment spent $100,000 a year there and sometimes got back only a 
small fraction of that sum in customs. During the revolution the 
Government had borrowed money for the army from the padres to 
the amount of $400,000, and the drafts were never paid. Under 
Mexican rule the padres continued to supply funds to the Govern 
ment, for the continual revolutions depleted the Mexican treasury, 
and the deficit in providing for government in California, amounting 
to from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, was made up by the missions. 
The Mexican rule lasted for 25 years, during which eight governors 
ruled California. When the Mexican Empire fell, it was succeeded by 
the Mexican Republic, with frequent changes of government; and 
during all this time the pueblo of Los Angeles was a storm-center of 
revolution. It had grown somewhat, adding population from the ship- 
fuls of criminals sent from Mexico, transportation to the Californias 
being a form of punishment ; and once it was presented by Mexico 
with a boat-load of orphans. The vineyards had started to grow, and 
the priests complained to the Governor that the citizens were being 
demoralized through an excess of enthusiasm in promoting home in 
dustry by drinking up the product in the form of brandy. In addition 
to its good citizens, the pueblo harbored a worthless and vicious lot 
of loafers who were such a source of trouble that the prefect of the 
southern district was wont to begin his reports to the Governor with 
the heading "Los Diablos" instead of "Los Angeles." 
Now things were happening in far-away Texas which were to have 



262 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

repercussions in California. Americans had settled this Mexican terri 
tory and, in 1836, had declared themselves an independent state and 
applied for admission to the Union. For years Congress dallied with 
the question, but finally statehood was granted Texas in 1845, on 
the eve of the war that Manifest Destiny declared on Mexico in April, 
1846. Commodore John D. Sloat seized the northern part of California 
in July, and in August Captain John C. Fremont and Commodore 
Robert F. Stockton, with sailors and marines, took Los Angeles with 
out a struggle and sent the report back to Washington by Kit Carson. 
Yerba Buena, as San Francisco was then called, never rebelled again, 
but the pueblo of Los Angeles was full of citizens to whom revolu 
tion was as much a matter of course as breakfast, and 500 of these 
drove out Captain Gillespie and his men, who had been left to guard 
the post. 

Meanwhile, General Stephen W. Kearny, advancing overland from 
Santa Fe with 1,600 troops, having had the report that all was well, 
distributed his force along the route and was advancing with only 121 
men when, at San Pascual, December 5, 1846, he met an attack by 
Governor Pio Pico with 80 lancers and suffered the loss of 18 men. 
Then he joined forces with the sailors and marines of Commodore 
Stockton at San Diego, and all advanced on Los Angeles, the sailors 
having some difficulty in riding horseback gracefully without hang 
ing on to the animals' necks. On January 10, 1847, they entered the 
town, and the band played them to the plaza, much to the delight 
of the inhabitants, whose revolutionary ardor was somewhat over 
come by the grand music. Captain Fremont, in the meantime, had pri 
vately met the revolutionary leaders outside the city to the north and 
arranged peace-terms, while Commodore Stockton and General Kearny 
carried on a spirited argument as to which was in command. To the 
south, General Winfield Scott marched on Mexico City, the Mexicans 
surrendered, and the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo was signed, giving 
to the United States Texas and New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Cali 
fornia. Thus the old pueblo of Los Angeles became an American town. 
In 1850 California was admitted to the Union as a free state, per 
manently upsetting the equilibrium between the slave and free states 
which had been carefully preserved up to that time so as to prevent 
conflict between the North and the South. For his unauthorized in- 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 263 

dependent activities during the siege of Los Angeles, Fremont was 
court-martialed and resigned from the Army ; later he was made gov 
ernor of the Territory of Arizona and was a candidate for the presi 
dency of the United States. 

Before the middle of the nineteenth century Los Angeles began 
to experience some of the growing pains which the other frontier 
towns of America had felt. Its dreamy, romantic combination of pueblo 
and mision and rancho was slowly slipping away, and in its stead 
was appearing the rough and ready life that characterized all the towns 
along the American frontier. By 1850 Los Angeles was said to be 
the toughest town in the country. In 1853, when there were more 
murders in California than in any other state in the Union, Los Angeles 
headed the list, and during the first twenty years of American occupa 
tion there were thirty-five lynchings in the city, four times as many 
as were credited to the famous Vigilance Committee of San Francisco. 
At one time the mayor himself resigned office to head a lynching 
party, and after the shooting of Sheriff Banton fifty bandits were 
put in jail and eleven were hanged. In one attack on Chinatown the 
mob took $40,000 in cash and killed nineteen Chinese. And the South 
ern Calif ornian for March 7, 1855, laconically remarked: "Last Sun 
day night was a brisk night for killing. Four men were shot and 
killed and seven wounded." 

But, with all its wildness, Los Angeles was becoming something 
of a commercial center. The Forty-niners on their way to the gold- 
fields of the Sacramento passed through the city from the south and 
west; it was the central market for cattle, and its population was 
slowly increasing. Perhaps the largest item in its growth was the de 
mobilization of a force of 1,000 Mormon soldiers from Salt Lake City, 
who had enlisted with the stipulation that they should settle in Cali 
fornia; some of these afterwards purchased the site of San Bernardino 
from one of the Spanish ranch-owners for $16,000 in fifty-dollar gold 
slugs. It was about this time that the American residents of Los 
Angeles began to consider that the future interests of the city de 
manded the development of the harbor at San Pedro, 30 miles away, 
and this may be taken as the beginning of the building of the metrop 
olis. From the time of Cabrillo sailors had dreaded this shallow, 
open harbor, for although Point Fermin protected the anchorage on 



264 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the west and Catalina Island, 20 miles away, gave some protection 
on the southwest, there was no protection at all in the southeast, 
whence came fierce storms which lashed the harbor to a foam and 
made it a dangerous haven, feared by navigators and disliked by 
sailors. In his Two Years before the Mast Richard Henry Dana tells 
of his first trip to San Pedro in 1836, when he was a Harvard under 
graduate of 19: 

Leaving Santa Barbara, we coasted along down, the country appearing 
level or moderately uneven, and, for the most part, sandy and treeless; 
until, doubling a high, sandy point, we let go our anchor at a distance 
of three or three and a half miles from shore. It was like a vessel, bound 
to Halifax, coming to anchor on the Grand Banks; for the shore being 
low, appeared to be at a greater distance than it actually was, and we 
thought we might as well have staid at Santa Barbara, and sent our boat 
down for the hides. The land was of a clayey consistency, and, as far as 
the eye could reach, entirely bare of trees and even shrubs ; and there was 
no sign of a town, not even a house to be seen. . . . 

I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking place we were 
in was the best place on the whole coast for hides. It was the only port 
for a distance of eighty miles, and about thirty miles in the interior was 
a fine plane country, filled with herds of cattle, in the centre of which 
was the Pueblo de Los Angeles the largest town in California and sev 
eral of the wealthiest missions; to all of which San Pedro was the sea 
port Two days more (to our no small joy) gave us our last view of 

that place, which was universally called the hell of California, and seemed 
designed, in every way, for the wear and tear of sailors. Not even the last 
view could bring out one feeling of regret. No thanks, thought I, as we 
left the sandy shores in the distance, for the hours I have walked over 
your stones, barefooted, with hides on my head; for the burdens I have 
carried up your steep, muddy hill; for the duckings in your surf; and 
for the long days and longer nights passed on your desolate hill, watching 
piles of hides, hearing the sharp bark of your eternal coati, and the dismal 
hooting of your owls. 

The first step toward making Los Angeles a center of trade was 
to secure recognition of its harbor; so, on May 30, 1850, a memorial 
to Congress was sent to Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, 
always a staunch friend of development in the West, begging that 
San Pedro be made a port of entry. "So numerous and aggravated 
are the evils which your memorialists suffer for want of a Port of 
Entry/' read the petition, "that they can but feel some little delicacy 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 265 

in bringing them to the notice of your Honorable body. For it is 
fully believed that in no section of the United States has there ever 
existed obstructions so serious in character to the prosperity of trade 
and commerce, and which have been so long and patiently endured 
by the same number of people as that to which your memorialists are 
and have been subjected.' 5 The petition then went on to recount that 
the gold-mines were taking the men away from Los Angeles, so that 
no cultivation of the soil was possible and the city was dependent 
for bread, peas, beans, oats, and barley on foreign supply. These were 
brought to San Francisco and reshipped to Los Angeles at enormous 
cost, the freight-rate for the short distance between San Francisco 
and San Pedro being twice that from New York to San Francisco, 
with the rate on flour $10.25 a barrel. It was pointed out that the 
"people of this region are to a large extent of Spanish descent and 
race, and whole cargoes of goods would be imported from Mexico 
and sold at a large advance that are never found at all in the markets 
of San Francisco in consequence of the population there being so 
essentially American in character." The petitioners declared that the 
port would receive "cargoes of rice and coffee from Central America, 
panocha [brown sugar] from Mexico, flour from Chile, and sugar 
from Peru." Moreover, the Masters could run their vessels better to 
San Pedro for there was not the same temptation to desert there as 
in San Francisco. And they ended in a burst of characteristic optimism: 
"This region is infinitely superior to any other part of California to 
sustain a dense population. There is more arable and irrigable land, 
and the climate, it is fully believed, will compare favorably for 
salubrity and evenness of temperature with the finest regions of 
Europe." 

When San Pedro was declared a port of entry, by act of Congress, 
August 3, 1854, the citizens made a beginning at cleaning out the 
shallow waters to form a harbor at the mouth of Wilmington Creek or 
Estuary. And Richard Henry Dana, returning in 1859, after 24 years, 
was able to revise his opinion of Southern California: 

The next morning we found ourselves at -anchor in the Bay of San 
Pedro. Here was this hated, this thoroughly detested spot. Although we lay 
near, I could scarce recognize the hill up which we rolled and dragged 
and 'pushed and carried our heavy loads, and down which we pitched 



266 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

the hides, to carry them barefooted over the rocks to the floating long 
boat. It was no longer the landing place. One had been made at the head 
of the Creek, and boats discharged and took off cargoes from a mole or 
wharf, in a quiet place safe from southeaster. A tug ran to take off pas 
sengers from the steamer to the wharf for the trade of Los Angeles is 

sufficient to support such a vessel The Pueblo of Los Angeles I found 

a large and flourishing town with brick sidewalks and blocks of stone 

or brick houses The wife of Don Juan, who was a beautiful young 

girl when we were on the coast, daughter of the Commandant of San 
Diego, was with him and still handsome. This is one of several instances 
I have noticed of the preserving quality of the California climate. The 
vintage of last year was estimated at half a million of gallons. Every year 
new square miles are laid down to vineyards and the Pueblo promises to 
be the center of one of the largest wine producing regions in the world. 
Grapes are a drug here and I found a great abundance of figs, olives, 
peaches, pears and melons. 

Now that the old pueblo and its port had shaken off the restrictions 
of the Spanish and Mexican governments, which had throttled its 
trade and had kept the settlers from planting the fruits and crops 
that could also be grown in the mother countries, new ventures were 
being started which promised prosperity and importance for Los 
Angeles. Wise men began to see that the future of the city rested 
on the cultivation of its soil and the development of its makeshift 
harbor into a deep-water port. Among these was Don Francisco Supel- 
veda, owner of a vast Spanish land-grant at the harbor, the Palos 
Verdes Ranch, who, with the coming of the Americans, had adapted 
himself to the new order of things so well that he served in important 
elective and appointive offices under the new regime, as he had under 
the old, until the end of his life. A shrewd business man, he saw 
the possibilities of the port as the only harbor between San Diego 
and San Francisco, and in 1865 he organized a company to build a 
wharf at San Pedro. But his activities were insignificant compared 
with those of the energetic Yankee promoter Colonel Phineas T. Ban 
ning, a gentleman of impressive portliness and persuasive oratorical 
powers, who seems to have been one of the first to develop the rich 
imaginative faculty peculiar to the Southern Californian. He saw the 
boundless opportunity of the pueblo and its harbor and visualized, 
as had some of the padres before him, one city from the mountains 
to the sea. 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 267 

By 1852 the good ship Sea Bird was making three round trips a 
month to San Francisco, "steamer-day" furnished the natives a new 
mark for measuring the passage of time, and Banning profited from 
the steamship service by conducting the stage-line that carried the 
passengers and freight from the harbor to the city. By 1864 he was 
recognized as the first citizen of the harbor district, and he owned 
his own newspaper at Wilmington, adjoining San Pedro, through 
which he sang the praises of Southern California and its port and 
the necessity for its development. In his fertile brain was born the 
scheme of building a 30-mile railroad from the harbor to the city, 
a project so enormous and unprecedented as to stagger the more 
conservative citizens. But Banning overrode objections and moved 
ahead with his plans until, in 1863, he secured the passage of an act 
through the state legislature permitting the city of Los Angeles, which 
had been chartered in 1850, and the County of Los Angeles, which 
had been organized in the same year, to bond themselves for $150,000 
to build this road. So unprepared was the populace for such a project 
that he agitated it five years before bringing it to a vote, and then 
he did so only over the opposition of some of the wealthiest and most 
substantial citizens, who declared the proposed line to be a madcap 
scheme which would bankrupt the county, and who conservatively 
estimated that two trains a month would carry all the freight the rail 
road would ever obtain. But Banning created enough sentiment in 
favor of the road so that the bond issue was approved at the election of 
1868 ; the road was opened in November, 1869, and within a few years 
it was running fifty cars of freight a day. As his share of the resultant 
prosperity, the Colonel derived a profit from the lighterage business 
that carried freight and passengers from wharf to ocean-going vessel 
by tug, charging $1.50 a passenger from ship to shore and sharing 
in the railroad freight-charge of $6 a ton from Los Angeles to the 
vessel. 

So successful was the Los Angeles and San Pedro enterprise that 
the old pueblo began to long for more railroads, and it looked hope 
fully towards San Francisco, where the Central Pacific was now run 
ning trains from the Golden Gate to the East. A branch line was 
being pushed southward by the railroad's newly formed subsidiary, 
the Southern Pacific, but the canny owners made no secret of the 



268 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

fact that they did not anticipate making Los Angeles even a tank 
town on their new road. They proposed, instead, to shoot off over the 
desert from Mojave to San Bernardino, many miles away from Los 
Angeles. However, Messrs. Crocker and Huntington opined that they 
might change their plans provided certain inducements were offered, 
these inducements being a subsidy amounting to five per cent of the 
assessed valuation of the county, or $600,000, a free right of way, 
and 60 acres in the heart of the city for a depot. 

This was quite a large sum for a city of 7,000 population, but 
when the people looked out into the San Fernando Valley and ob 
served that the towns that had not acceded to the Southern Pacific's 
suggestion had been ignored by the railroad and left to shrivel and 
die, they decided to pay what was asked. Amid cries of pain from 
taxpayers and a flood of letters by Pro Bono Publico declaring that 
the county was heading straight for ruin by accepting such an enor 
mous obligation, the bond-issue was passed on November 5, 1872 ; 
the county paid the road $377,000 in 20-year 7 per cent bonds and 
donated its stock in the San Pedro railroad to cover the remainder 
of the subsidy, thereby virtually presenting the Southern Pacific with 
a monopoly of the rail entry to the harbor of Los Angeles. By the 
time the Southern Pacific had tunneled the San Fernando Mountains 
and built over the Tehachapi Pass, which divides southern and 
northern California, the amount paid by the county was generally 
considered to be not exorbitant. And when the bonds were finally 
due, the assessed valuation of the county had increased to $100,000,000, 
partly by reason of the arrival of the railroad, and the $600,000 seemed 
a trifle. 

To San Francisco and her railroad kings the arrival of the Southern 
Pacific in Los Angeles was an insignificant incident. To the people 
of Los Angeles, however, it was a breath-taking event which they 
had struggled and sacrificed to bring about, and they rightly regarded 
it as the beginning of a new era. Up to this time the Angelenos had 
had no rail outlet for their products and had been forced to make 
the long journey to San Francisco by stage in order to take the 
train for the East. And the metropolis of San Francisco had remained 
indifferent to the needs of the city or even to its existence. One of 
the early versifiers has touchingly described the growth of Los Angeles 




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A PALM-LINED STREET IN A MODERN SUBURB 
Beverly Hills. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 




A WINTER VISTA IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY 

Palms and snow-capped mountains. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber ,of 

Commerce. 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 269 

as aided and abetted by her friends, the cities named for the saints, 
that cluster around her: 

Francisco the Friar of Grey Orders 

His benison sends from afar, 

And the saints that dwell over the borders 

Most faithful of servitors are. 

But he was overly optimistic, for it has not been recorded that San 
Francisco ever showed any excess of generosity or helpfulness to the 
city in the south, which she later derisively referred to as "Spring 
Street and the surrounding lemon orchards. 57 On this gala occasion, 
however, some fifty San Franciscans joined three hundred and fifty 
Angelenos to celebrate the linking of north and south with rails of 
steel. On September 6, 1876, at the station of Lang, on the sandy 
desert dotted with sage-brush, greasewood and pancake cactuses, while 
the fine sand and black dust of the region blew along in clouds under 
a high wind, the golden spike was driven. As the visitors looked on, 
hordes of Chinamen, wearing huge basket hats, swarmed into the 
open space where 1,000 feet of track was to be laid and completed 
the job in 8*4 minutes, the track-layers from the south beating those 
from the north by a single rail, much to the delight of the Angelenos. 
Then up stepped Charles Crocker, builder of the Central Pacific and 
the Southern Pacific, swinging an orange-wood and silver sledge 
hammer, and, holding up the golden spike, declared that it was made 
of this precious metal because it symbolized the vast wealth that 
would flow into the coffers of San Francisco and Los Angeles and, 
he might well have added, the Southern Pacific when this road 
should be finished. He dwelt on the beautiful valleys full of prosperous, 
happy people that would replace the barren desert, and concluded, 
"I am not a speech maker but I can drive a spike." Six blows of the 
hammer and the job was done. The portly form of Colonel Phineas 
T. Banning, known as "the Pathfinder," being seen in the crowd, he 
was called on for a speech ; he told his audience that "If a man is a 
benefactor who causes two blades of grass to grow where only one 
grew before, how much more is he who causes grass to grow where 
none grew before!" after which he flowed smoothly into poetry of 
his own composition. Perhaps Crocker remembered these noble lines 
some years later, when, after being kept waiting in an anteroom for 



270 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

several hours by the Los Angeles City Council, he declared in an 

outburst of rage that he would make the grass grow in the Los Angeles 

streets. 

But this was only the prelude to a banquet which the An- 
gelenos had planned with their tenderest care and adorned with their 
most gorgeous arts and crafts. When the party returned to the city, 
they entered a hall which was a riot of decoration, worked out in 
fruits, cornucopias, evergreens, pomegranates, grapes, wines, and roses, 
with a 58-pound watermelon as the piece de resistance. Floral pieces 
declared San Francisco and Los Angeles to be sister cities, canaries 
sang in their cages, vast cakes of ice showed imprisoned fruits and 
flowers, and the ladies had prepared an illumination which was a 
fitting precursor of the electric street signs that were to blossom 
forth so abundantly in the Los Angeles of future years. This was 
a gorgeously decorated fountain surmounted by a large glass globe, 
illuminated with copious jets of gas which produced a rich ruby- 
colored light. Fronv the fountain sixteen separate streams of water 
were released, falling in drops lighted by the rich ruby reflection 
"shining with all the hues of the kaleidoscope," much to the astonish 
ment and delight of the spectators. 

After having dined sumptuously in this exotic setting, Charles Crocker 
arose in response to a toast. He said that he was not the orator of 
his company; he was the worker, and when work was to be done, 
he took his station at the front; but they had some 'good speakers 
who were also entitled to credit, Governor Stanford for instance. With 
this left-handed compliment he introduced the Governor, who told 
his listeners that the object of the partners was not to make money 
alone; certainly not; they all had a roof over their heads and enough 
to eat, but their wish was to develop an empire, and this could be 
done only if all the people of California would help them in their great 
work. Whether the Angelenos knew it or not, they were already en 
listed in this beneficent project and were mightily to sweat and strain 
to help the great work of Stanford, Crocker, Huntington, and Hopkins 
for the rest of their lives. 

Perhaps the party had now reached the stage when all could heartily 
join in the lines of a local poet who had composed some stirring 
stanzas of song for the occasion: 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 271 

Let men boast as they will of the wines of Castile, 

Oporto or Isles of Canary, 
But since I've been here my opinion is clear, 
And from it I never shall vary. 

That of all to be proud of with which we're endowed, 
And for which we're to thank nature's bounty, 
There are none anywhere that are found to compare 
With the wines of Los Angeles County. 
If you drink the pure wines of Los Angeles vines 
You'll ever keep cool, bright and steady 
Be rugged in health, have plenty of wealth 
As many I know have already. 

The visitors from San Francisco were told that in time Los Angeles 
County would rival some of the most famous nations of Europe in 
the extent of her wine interests, would equal the interior counties of 
New York in her cheese-production, and the best Mississippi Valley 
sections in the growth of corn, wheat, barley, bacon, beef, and mutton. 
But the editor of the News reassured them by saying that they saw 
in Los Angeles "a young city which is destined to become great but 
which can never aspire to rival your own superb metropolis." 

And, certainly, the Los Angeles of that day never dreamed of ap 
proaching the power and prestige of imperial San Francisco. For it 
was still a small community of a definite Mexican flavor, centered 
around its historic plaza, producing no crops of much value other 
than wine grapes a sleepy, sunny old town, its streets lined with 
adobe houses, overhung with pepper-trees dropping their red berries 
in the dust. Gaily clad Mexican caballeros rode through the streets, 
their horses adorned with silver-studded saddles ; mule-team freighters 
dragged their heavy cargoes into the city, and horse-cars jogged pleas 
antly along under palm and eucalyptus. In the American section huge, 
ornate white houses of the gingerbread-Mississippi-steamboat style 
of architecture were set back from the street in verdant lawns, on 
which disported themselves the iron deer, surrounded by spear- 
pointed century-plants and hedges of blazing crimson geraniums as 
high as a man. Up to the time of the arrival of the iron horse the 
prevailing temper of Los Angeles was the soft and comfortable spirit 
of manana. But the railroad changed all this overnight. 

Assuredly the transportation princes from San Francisco had no 



272 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

thought of Los Angeles as a rival for their metropolis ; and, indeed, 
if the city had resigned itself to the ministrations of Crocker, Stan 
ford, and Huntington, its progress would have been slow. For these 
gentlemen now began a series of rate-makings which caused Los An 
geles to pay heavily for the privilege of being on their railroad line, 
discriminations which continued even when the road was extended to 
the east through Yuma. When this line was finally put into operation, 
Los Angeles merchants thought they would be able to buy cheaper 
in the East, since the road ran directly into their city ; but even then 
the Southern Pacific arranged the tariff so that they had to pay the 
equivalent of the rate to San Francisco and back, 974 miles of addi 
tional hauling, which was added on paper but not done in fact. The 
wholesale trade of the state was thus centered at San Francisco, and 
the Southern Pacific discriminated further by charging so much for 
freight that Los Angeles could not profitably ship into her own con 
tiguous territory. An example of the railroad's rate-making which grew 
famous was that given the farmers of San Joaquin, who wanted to 
ship and sell the castor-beans which grew wild in their county. They 
harvested and sacked them and piled them along the railroad track 
waiting shipment. But when they asked the railroad to put a freight- 
rate on this innocent commodity, it was listed under the extra maxi 
mum tariff, along with dangerous blasting-powder and combustibles 
of the most hazardous kind. Shipment was thus so expensive as to 
be impossible, the beans were left to rot, and another black mark 
was chalked up against the Southern Pacific. 

Spalding tells of a year when Southern California growers produced 
a surplus of hay and wished to ship it into Arizona.* The printed 
schedules did not include this item, and, following a request for tie 
quotation of a rate, the following conversation took place between 
the hay-dealer and C. F. Smurr, the traffic manager of the Southern 
Pacific Railway Company: 

"What are you paying for hay here?" Smurr asked. 

"Twelve dollars a ton/' replied the dealer. 

"What can you sell it for in Tucson?" 

"Twenty dollars." 7 

* William A. Spalding, History of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, J. R. Finnell and 
Company), 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 273 

"Then/ 5 said Smurr, "the rate will be eight dollars a ton." 

This was certainly living up to the Southern Pacific policy of charg 
ing all the traffic would bear. And discrimination continued, so that 
in 1885 the Times complained that Los Angeles was paying on freight 
to Yuma nearly twice as much per ton-mile as San Francisco, and to 
El Paso and Tucson about 50 per cent more ; and it remarked, when 
the fruit-growers petitioned the Southern Pacific to lower the carload 
rate to New York from $600 to $300, that it appeared to be a mere 
question of time when the railroad would discover that its true in 
terest lay in the direction of encouraging the fruit industry and making 
rates as low as possible. About this time the Southern Pacific began 
to adopt a more conciliatory attitude, for its monopoly of California 
trade was fast disappearing. It successfully fought Thomas Scott's 
threatened advance with his Texas and Pacific, but it met a new rival 
in the t Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, which was steadily creeping 
over the plains from the Middle West to California. 

This now powerful and prosperous railroad had set out to the Far 
West over the old Santa Fe Trail, along which pack-mules, ox-wagons, 
and stage-coaches had successively traveled from the Missouri River 
to New Mexico. Begun by Cyrus K. Holliday, the man who founded 
Topeka and made it the capital of Kansas, it was chartered in Janu 
ary, 1859, and was given a grant of 3,000,000 acres of land. This was 
relatively modest in comparison with the other roads, for the Union 
Pacific and Central Pacific each got 27,000,000 acres, the Northern 
Pacific 43,000,000, the Texas and Pacific 23,000,000, and the Southern 
Pacific 14,000,000. So scanty were the resources of the Santa Fe 
promoters that when they journeyed to Atchison to organize their 
company, they took cold lunches and traveled in a hack donated by 
a Topeka livery-stable. When ground was broken at Topeka in 1868, 
laughter greeted Holliday's prediction that those present would live 
to see the road reach Santa Fe. But by 1872 it had built clear across 
the State of Kansas, one of its division points being the town of Dodge 
City, with its cattle, buffaloes, Indians, gamblers, murder and sud 
den death, and it was making large earnings. 

The Santa Fe sold its lands profitably through newspaper advertis 
ing, by running excursions in June when the fields were full of grain 
and the corn waist-high, and by importing 15,000 Mennonites who 



274 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

were about to be driven from Russia by Imperial decree. In 1877 
William B. Strong became general manager, in 1881 president, and 
under his direction tlie road expanded until it was one of the major 
transportation systems of the country. It purchased the government 
franchise of the proposed Atlantic and Pacific road, thus gaining 
access to California, and then the program of expansion began. Its 
lines reached El Paso, Texas, on May 31, 1881, and were extended to 
tide-water on the Pacific at the port of Guyamas, Mexico, by October 
25, 1882. Building straight west, the Santa Fe reached Needles, a 
station just across the Arizona line in California, in August, 1883. 
Alarmed by the aggression of this road and the fact that it already 
had access to a seaport at Guyamas, from which President Strong 
threatened to operate a steamship line to San Francisco and San 
Diego, the Southern Pacific was disposed to be conciliatory. It there 
fore leased the Santa Fe 140 miles of its track extending westward 
from Needles to Mojave. At about the center of this stretch of road 
was Barstow, and from that point the Santa Fe began to build south 
toward Los Angeles, reaching San Bernardino, 60 miles from Los 
Angeles, on November 9, 1885. 

Meanwhile the Southern Pacific had granted the Santa Fe running 
rights over its track from Mojave to San Francisco. But the Santa Fe 
had no intention of depending on this agreement to reach a California 
harbor. It therefore made arrangements to purchase the California 
Southern, which had been built by San Diego capitalists northward 
from their city with the hope of getting a transcontinental railroad 
connection. Hence, with the completion of the line from Barstow to 
San Bernardino, the Santa Fe gained its own Pacific outlet at San 
Diego. Shortly preceding this, on September 24, 1885, the Santa Fe 
had leased a free and equal use of the Southern Pacific's tracks be 
tween Colton and Los Angeles, so that its access to California's three 
large ports was now complete. In 1887 it extended its own tracks from 
San Bernardino to Azusa, 25 miles from Los Angeles, connecting these 
with the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Railroad, which it purchased, 
thus completing its own tracks into Los Angeles. 

As the Santa Fe built westward, the Los Angeles Times commented 
on the fact that the city had grown from 11,300 to 30,000 in five years 
and added : 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 275 

Railroad competition is now the one thing required to place the trade 
of our city on a metropolitan basis and give us all the advantages of an 
entrepot for the great southwest. , . . Our fruit and wine trade will extend 
throughout the United States. As yet we have only been sending out 

samples We must have such railroad freights as will justify eastern 

shipments. The transportation companies must be content with a fair 
share of the profits, leaving margins for the producer, the shipper and the 
seller as well. We have seen freights on fruit reduced from $400 per car 
to $250 and $225. There may be a further reduction to $150 or even 
$100 per car load without any danger of placing the railroad hi the hands 
of the receiver. 

Now for the first time the Southern Pacific felt transcontinental 
competition. When the Santa Fe asked for 50 per cent of the southern 
California business and 27 per cent of the northern, the Southern 
Pacific refused, and the Santa Fe declared war. Freight that had been 
$5 a ton was cut to 30 cents, passenger fares that were $55 fell to $8. 
A ticket from Chicago to Los Angeles cost $10; from Kansas City, 
$5; from New York, $23; and at one time the rate was cut to ?i 
between Los Angeles and St. Louis. People began to pour into the city ; 
personally conducted "popular Pullman palace parties" arrived from 
the East, many of whose members decided to stay and gave away 
their return tickets or even burned them. The Santa Fe advertised 
California everywhere, and the Southern Pacific was forced to follow 
suit. 

Never willing to hide her light under a bushel, Los Angeles had set 
up a tremendous flare wherever it might be seen in the East and Mid 
dle West, with such dazzling effect that the San Jose Times Mercury 
declared on April 4, 1885: 

Our brethren of the city and would-be state of the Angels understand 
how to advertise. The average eastern mind conceives of California as a 
small tract of country situated in and about Los Angeles. The mines, 

parks, vineyards, and redwood forests are all there or thereabouts 

Circulars, posters, pamphlets, all singing the praises of Los Angeles were 
distributed by millions; and all our ultramontane brethren whose lives 
have been spared through the recent awful winter are vowing that as soon 
as they can sell out they will emigrate to Los Angeles. The result shows 
the pecuniary value of cheek. Suburban lots at Los Angeles are worth a 
prince's ransom, and the appalling waste of alkali and sage brush in which 
the angels have built their city is almost as valuable to sell as our rich 
willow lands. 



276 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

The advertising of the city and the competitive railroads combined 
with cheap fares to produce the great boom, a boom which made pre 
vious land speculations in the Middle West look like very small 
potatoes indeed, which even surpassed in extravagant grandeur that 
early financial fantasy, the Mississippi Bubble. For John Law amazed 
Europe by selling his colony in Louisiana at $5,500 a square league, 
whereas Los Angeles land sold at $2,500 an acre or $14,400,000 a 
square league; and the $15,000,000 capital stock of John Law's bank 
was equaled by the sales of Los Angeles real estate in a single month. 
Low railroad fares brought tourists and settlers in such numbers that 
the hotels were flooded and it was not uncommon for guests to sleep 
in bathtubs; promoters from Kansas and other former boom states 
flocked in; and the increase in land values and sales, which started 
in an orderly and conservative way when the Santa Fe arrived, began 
to leap in geometrical progression. The rich verbiage of the profes 
sional promoter and the beauty of the lithographer's art combined to 
portray the glories of Southern California in brochures and broadsides 
marked by all the shrinking reticence and modest understatement 
of the publicity for a circus. 

In the spring of 1887, as the Santa Fe approached Los Angeles, 
towns were laid out along the route until there were twenty-five be 
tween the city to the county line, an average of one to each mile and 
a half. Eight more towns were platted on the parallel line of the 
Southern Pacific, and three others between the roads. Nor were the 
promoters niggardly in their use of the raw land : Monrovia was eight 
square miles in extent, Pasadena the same; Chicago Park occupied 
3 3 ooo choice lots in the rocky wash of the San Gabriel River. "Pic 
turesque Carlton, Nature's Rendezvous/' was precariously perched 
on the Santa Ana Mountains, so far removed from civilization that 
water had to be hauled in by wagons ; yet its promoters declared that 
a sumptuous tourist hotel was already rising, along with a massive 
bank and safety-deposit vault. The promoters of Gladstone presented 
England's prime minister with a building site and gave the impres 
sion that his arrival to build a winter home on his property was 
imminent. An exceptionally gifted promoter named Homberg laid 
out Border City and Manchester on the mountains at the edge of the 
Mojave Desert, easily accessible by balloon and field-glass, and sold 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 277 
lots by mail to eager purchasers, who, it is to be hoped, were spared 
the pain of attempting to visit their property. Customers who bought 
during the boom were not unduly particular about the details of their 
purchases. The fact that most of the lots, even in the remote subdi 
visions, were only 25 by 100 feet did not bother them; and Mr. 
Homberg even went so far as to carve 2,304 lots out of 160 acres 
the cost of the land being 10 cents a lot, the sale price as high as $200. 

On came the new Californians rich Eastern emigrants in palace- 
cars instead of the traditional prairie-schooners; Iowa farmers who 
had tired of getting up early to thaw out the pump on chilly morn 
ings and who longed to settle down to a life of ease, untroubled by 
rheumatism, amid the orange-groves; and invalids in search of life- 
giving sun and balmy air. Most of them had money to invest, and 
they eagerly read the real-estate news in the daily papers, which also 
contained complete lists of the names and addresses of every excursion 
party, much to the delight of the visitors and the refreshment of 
realtors engaged in making out sucker-lists. These newspapers were 
interlaced with full-page advertisements declaring Garvanza to be the 
loveliest spot in Pasadena, a five-minute walk from the street-car 
line (soon to be built), and stating that Boyle Heights was free from 
malaria, fanned by ocean breezes from San Pedro untainted by being 
blown over the city, and served by a cable line (to be built in a short 
time), the advertisement closing with the pointed remark that "Dur 
ing the rainy season you do not require boats to travel in the streets 
at Boyle Heights." Advertisements set forth in bold-face such un 
doubted facts as, "You will get Fat at Rosecranz," "Buy land in Los 
Angeles and Wear Diamonds"; and one well-named city, Ballona, 
located in a swamp, boasted of its "harbor." When the sale of lots at 
the town of Azusa opened, buyers stood in line all night ; the second 
man in the queue sold his place for $1,000, the third man his for 
$500, and fifty-four others theirs for $100 or more, while number 
one, deaf to all offers, clung stubbornly to the door-handle. In this 
development $280,000 worth of lots were sold the first day to frenzied 
speculators, of whom "not one in ten had ever seen the place and not 
one in a hundred intended to live there." 

In his Millionaires For a Day T. S- Van Dyke describes how lots 
were sold at Elysian Heights, where prospective purchasers were en- 



278 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

tertained by a brass band attired in purple and gold, led by a drum- 
major with a gilded staff, and were fed by a caterer in a dress-suit 
with a white necktie and a diamond pin. 

Hundreds of people were already on the ground, and barouches and 
broughams drawn by sleek horses in silver plated harness, driven by 
combinations of silk hats, white neckties and dog-skin gloves, were steadily 
unloading fat old bankers with their wives and daughters, retired mer 
chants and stock brokers, grain dealers, liquor dealers, lawyers and doctors 

out for a picnic at the expense of a stranger The auctioneer, arrayed 

in costly garb, was an ex-minister of the Gospel, who had been lured from 
the path of duty by the superior attractions of the rising real estate mar 
ket The owner knew by long experience that the race of real estate 

buyers are the silliest of sheep, and need leading even to their own good. 
And the auctioneer had been so often impressed with the sheeplike nature 
of man, while trying to lead another kind of sheep to another kind of 
welfare, that he had no scruples about enveigling the crowd into what 
his conscience told him was really a fine bargain. So he had a dozen 
assistants distributed judiciously about the audience, none of whom were 
supposed to know one another or the auctioneer. Some were provided 
with gold coin to jingle on the table when they made their payments, 
while others, who looked like business men, had check books. All asked 
numerous questions about the country, its resources and prospects before 
the sale began. 

After the band had nearly raised the roof off an immense live oak, 
under which it was stationed, the auctioneer mounted the stand, an 
nounced the terms of sale, and pointing to a large cloth map on which a 
boy had located a lot with a long fishing-pole, said, "Now ladies and gen 
tlemen, here is one of the finest lots in the whole tract, with the privilege 
of taking the next two at the same price. Give me a bid now, quick." 

"A hundred dollars," called out a middle aged man in gold spectacles, 
silk hat and toothpick shoes. 

All eyes were turned upon him, but he withstood their gaze without 
flinching. None suspected that he was an assistant. But he was, and 
had been in such haste to bid, for fear the owner of some rival addition 
would offer five or ten dollars so as to spoil the sale that he forgot his 
instructions and bid fifty dollars less than he had been told. 

"I am not selling you the map," said the auctioneer in a withering 
tone. "It is a fifty-foot lot I am offering you!" 

"One hundred and fifty," said another man, quietly and with the solemn 
dignity becoming a genuine buyer of wealth and standing. 

"One hundred and fifty only! Why, gentlemen, this is positively ridicu 
lous. These lots will bring a thousand dollars apiece in less than six 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 279 

months. Still, they have to go. This sale is positively without reserve," 
said the auctioneer with an air of despondency. "One fifty-fifty fifty- 
give us two hundred, now quick." ' ' 

Under such methods the sale proceeded to arouse the enthusiasm 
of even the most tepid of the visitors, and by the time of sundown 
the owner had sold one-fifth of the property for more than he had 
contracted to pay for the whole of it, while the buyers were eagerly 
looking for other buyers on whom to unload at a profit. 

By 1887 the boom had reached its height. Speculation was rampant, 
thousands of new-comers kept flooding in; there was no longer any 
need for guarantees of railroads, waterworks, colleges, or hotels, no 
necessity for abstracts, or even the showing of lots. All that was needed 
was a map with some plots marked "sold" and a notice: "Prices raised 
twenty per cent to-morrow," a collection of 25-foot lots, and clerks 
to fill out bills of sale. The realtor simply bought, for $10 or $20 an 
acre, waterless tracts, and sold them, divided into lots, for from 
$1,000 to $10,000 an acre. An advertisement designed to lure the tired 
business man is typical of the times: 

Rowena is the loveliest of spots for the rest of man after the busy toil 
of daily labor. Each under his own fig tree was the sum total of the 
ancients 7 happiness, and now is offered to the weary and the rest-seeker 
a land which will enable him to be where the wicked cease from troubling 
and the weary can rest in the eventide. There is no drawback to Rowena! 
You need not till the soil. You can look on while the earth sends forth her 
plenty. Flowers, the first luxury that nature knew, in Eden's pure and 
guiltless garden grew, at Rowena! 

After looking somewhat longingly at the amazing flood of dollars 
pouring into Los Angeles County, the editor of the Oakland Tribune 
laid down this formula for producing a local boom : 

Begin digging a duck pond at Mowry's landing, call it a harbor for 
the white winged argosies of commerce, big enough to float the combined 
commercial fleets of the world. Organize three competing railroads to 
run their lines into the duck pond. Lay out a town, all corner lots, at the 
Fish ranch, and have a line of eager buyers camp all night outside the 
auctioneer's office waiting to buy themselves rich. Season liberally with 
brass bands, free lunches and windy speeches. That is the way they do it 
down south and it pays. The man who discovered that it costs nothing to 



280 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

own an incorporated company with a name a yard long was a great 
inventor. Los Angeles rises up and calls him blest. 

The ridiculous aspect of some of the suburban promotion was ap 
parent even in Los Angeles itself, where a dealer in metropolitan real 
estate satirized it in the following circular : 

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! 

The newest town out! Balderdash! Watch for it! Walt for it! 
Catch on to it! 

To meet the great demand for another new townsite we have secured 
10,000 acres of that beautiful land lying on the top of Old Baldy, and 
will lay out an elegant town with the above very significant and appropri 
ate name. The land is away up and has attracted more attention than 
any other spot in Southern California. Nine thousand acres will be at 
once divided into fine business lots 14x33 feet. All lots will front on grand 
avenues 17 feet wide and run back to 18 inch alleys. For the present one- 
tenth of the entire tract will be reserved for residences in case anyone 
should want to build, but judging from the success of other similar schemes 
none of it will be needed for this purpose. To accommodate the inquisitive 
who are afraid to invest without inspecting the property a fast balloon 
line will be started in the near future. Parties will be permitted to return 
on the superb toboggan slide to be built in the sweet bye and bye. All 
lots will be sold at a uniform price of $1100 each. This is considered a 
very low price for such high lands but the projectors of the scheme are 
philanthropists and are willing to sell at very close figures and give 
purchasers the benefit of the rise. All offers for lots will be refused previ 
ous to day of sale, and in order that all may have a chance no person 
will be permitted to buy more than 500 lots. Free lunches and cots will 
be offered to those who want to camp in front of the office a* few days 
previous to the opening of the sale. 

It was during these years that E. J. ("Lucky") Baldwin was devel 
oping his enormous Santa Anita Ranch and stables at Lamanda Park. 
Baldwin had owned a livery-stable in San Francisco and had made 
his first big strike at fortune when he bought 1,000 shares of stock in 
the Crown Point Mine on the Comstock Lode at $3 a share. When 
the price declined, he told his broker to sell when it again touched 
$3, but he sailed for China without leaving power of attorney; the 
stock could not be sold, and when he returned, it had multiplied in 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 28l 

value to make him a millionaire. His brokers then decided to make 
some money for themselves by selling him $500,000 worth of the 
Ophir Mine at $10 a share, and in a short time the big bonanza came 
in. When the Bank of California tried to get his broker to vote Bald 
win's stock in its favor, he was angered and sold out at the top price 
of $300, after which the bubble burst. He built a hotel and a gorgeous 
theater in San Francisco, and when no others would lend to the 
Temple and Workman bank in Los Angeles, Baldwin did. In return, 
when the bank failed, he got its large holdings of Southern California 
property, then considered worthless but later to be of great value, 
including the Santa Anita Ranch which he so developed as to make 
it famous. 

Many other strange geniuses were attracted to Los Angeles in the 
Eighties. Charles F. Lummis, the writer, who was to turn out numer 
ous books on the Southwest, arrived on foot, after traveling 3,507 
miles from Cincinnati in 143 days, to be city editor of the Los Angeles 
Times. There came also Helen Hunt Jackson, who told the world of the 
wonders of California and began to write her novel Ramona. With 
her, as another United States commissioner to examine Indian affairs, 
came Abbott Kinney, world traveler, relative of Holmes and Emerson, 
and, at the time, health-seeker, who settled in Sierra Madre. Twenty 
years later he developed the seaside city of Venice, modeled after its 
ancient namesake, utilizing its worthless tide-lands to construct wind 
ing canals on which floated imported gondolas manned by imported 
gondoliers. He spanned the canals with graceful bridges and lined 
them with exotic buildings, among which were an auditorium with a 
pipe-organ, a glassed-in plunge, and a ship cafe. He planned to make 
this resort the home of the wealthy, cultured, and romantic; but his 
dreams of playgrounds, fine music, opera, and lectures for the masses 
faded away, and in later years Venice became, instead, a successful 
amusement park, where the shrieks of the roller-coaster addicts min 
gled with the odor of the succulent hot dog and the raucous cry of 
the side-show barker. 

In the Eighties, too, came General Fremont, appointed Governor of 
Arizona, to marvel at the changes of 30 years, and before the boom 
was over so many other celebrities that the town could not keep track 
of them. The Times undertook to classify those who should not come 



282 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to Los Angeles : "dudes, loafers, paupers, those who expect to astonish 
the natives, those who are afraid to pull off their coats, cheap poli 
ticians, business scrubs, impecunious clerks, lawyers, and doctors." 
But the flood continued, and late in 1887 the Times sounded a mild 
warning to the buyers of real estate in boom towns outside the 
metropolis: "Beware of being the last man in the line of speculators. 
Beware of being caught in a speculator's town" ; and Eastern papers 
were freely predicting the end of the Southern California boom. Most 
of the speculators drove blindly on, however, in full confidence that 
prices would continue rising to the point they desired and then give 
them due notice of their intention to stop. It was not a boom at all, 
they said, but only a sudden recognition of what the world had long 
been looking for and had just found. Van Dyke records some of the 
conversations typical of the times: 

"This is now the central point of a thousand converging lines from 
every town, city, and hamlet in the United States," said General Theophilius 
Turkeytail, who had made three millions on the boom, looking down with 
the air of a St. Bernard, examining a little whiffet of a man who had 
made only half a million out of nothing. "She is going by her own mo 
mentum, sir. We have 60 million people on this side of the Atlantic, sir, 
and when the supply is exhausted there are lots more on the other side." 
And the smaller millionaire looked gratefully up into the great wise 
countenance, drew a long breath of satisfaction, and went off to buy some 
thing more on credit, to increase his load when the day of reckoning came. 

"I always knew it would be so," said General Spraddlebuck, who for 
several years before the boom had been vainly trying to sell his town 
lots for one-fourth what they cost him ten years before, so as to be able 
to go to another town, but who was now, according to the newspapers, 
"a great enterprising and progressive citizen, whose undying faith in our 
beautiful city has made him rich." 

"We have thought at times that we were going too fast, but we have 
been merely trembling at the shadow of our own greatness," said the 
Rev. Solomon Sunrise, who, on week days had been more successful in 
getting a cheap option on a piece of valuable property than in beating 
the devil out of an immortal soul on Sundays. "We have but girded our 
loins for the race, and are now running like a strong man rejoicing in his 
strength, knowing no fear." 

"What! Can that lot on Banana Street be bought for $20,000? It seems 
incredible I" 

"What do you think of the situation? How long is it going to last?" 



LOS ANGELES AND REAL-ESTATE PROMOTION 283 

"Well," said the banker with the ponderous gravity of utterance becom 
ing the wisdom of wealth, "I can't fully agree with those who think it is 
going to last forever. But I am satisfied that the top is still a long way 
off. I am holding on to every thing I have, and I see no special cause 
for doing otherwise. Of course I would not advise any one to buy what 
he cannot pay for; but I see no reason for sacrificing anything, and to 
sell now before winter is certainly to sacrifice." 

As 1888 approached, there were many who felt that they would like 
to see some of the money and energy being spent on laying out towns 
diverted into the more productive channels of developing natural 
resources, establishing factories, and seeking out and securing water- 
supplies for the dry, unproductive lands. In January there was a slight 
slump ; people were not quite so eager to buy. Soon there seemed to 
be more private holdings appearing in the market than usual. Sud 
denly the market was full of sellers with no one offering to buy. Then 
the panic began, and the boom was over. To a less favored territory 
the slump might well have been fatal, but when the casualties were 
all counted, it was found that Los Angeles had gained much in the 
period of inflation. She had thousands of new and moneyed citizens 
as permanent residents; she had thousands of acres of outlying agri 
cultural lands planted to fruit-trees; she had made comprehensive 
plans for the development of a great city. Because of the slump in 
real estate many of the remote "cities" of Los Angeles County, an 
area as large as some Eastern states, were sold for taxes and put under 
the plow to be a productive source of income for Southern California ; 
and when materials and labor dropped to low prices, people began 
building substantial houses. Not a single bank failed, and the Security 
Trust and Savings Bank, which was destined to become one of the 
great banks of the nation, was founded at this time. Capital believed 
{hat it was a good time to start things, for values had at last reached 
rock bottom. Street improvements, cable roads, irrigation works, long 
needed, were developed, and the town took fresh courage when a 
new group of Chicago capitalists came in and built a large office-build 
ing on Spring Street. Nothing could stop the growth of Southern 
California ! 



CHAPTER XI 

THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 

4LTHOUGH the Franciscan fathers planted oranges as well as 
l\ figs, grapes, and olives, the growing of citrus fruits did not 
L \. soon become an industry of importance, and before 1875 
"nothing worthy of the name of orange had been produced in Califor 
nia." The orange was thick-skinned, sour, puffy, dry, and the dry, 
spongy lemons had skin half an inch thick. The farmers did not yet 
understand how to use the California soil. Their work was "a com 
bination of laziness, imitation of Mexican methods and general shift- 
lessness and ignorance of the peculiarities of California." Before the 
penetration of the railroads there was no market for oranges except 
San Francisco, and hence no encouragement for growing the fruit. 
Furthermore, the Californians had not yet discovered that apparently 
worthless, barren, dry upland regions could be made amazingly fertile 
by irrigation and were actually far superior to the valley land in 
productivity. But after the collapse of the real-estate boom Southern 
California found the slowly, surely developing citrus industry to be 
one of her most valuable assets. 

After the secularization of the missions in 1834, their orange-groves 
deteriorated, and 12 years later Fremont wrote that little remained of 
them. A few seeds from Central America and Hawaii were planted 
at various places, but it was not until 1873 that the growing of oranges 
had its real beginning through the introduction of the Washington 
navel orange from Bahia, Brazil, by the United States Department of 
Agriculture. Having received from Bahia a letter mentioning a seed 
less orange of large size and fine flavor, the Department asked for 
cuttings and received a small box of orange twigs, utterly dry and 
useless. The Department then offered to pay for grafting a few buds 
on young stocks, and ultimately a box arrived from Rev. F. I. C. 
Schneider, the first Presbyterian missionary to Bahia, containing 

284 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 285 

twelve newly-budded trees. There was a supply of young orange 
stocks in the Department, and as fast as buds were secured, they were 
grafted on these stocks. The first two young plants were sent to Mrs. 
L. C. Tibbetts of Riverside, California, who had called at the office 
in Washington and asked for them. They prospered with her, and 
when they bore fruit of large size and fine appearance, it was called 
the Riverside Navel, a name which was afterwards changed to the 
Washington Navel by other Californians who did not wish to adver 
tise the town of Riverside. Planted in the dooryard of her home, the 
trees attracted attention on account of the size, quality, and seedless- 
ness of the fruit, and their superiority led to the rapid propagation 
of this variety in and near Riverside. So profitable was the sale of 
buds that the trees were surrounded by high barbed-wire fences to 
prevent the thieving of budwood from them. And the fruit from the 
pioneer orchards propagated from these trees laid the foundation 
for the subsequent development and commercial success of the entire 
citrus industry of California. An orange-tree from the original parent 
trees was planted in the courtyard of the Mission Inn at Riverside 
by President Theodore Roosevelt on May 8, 1903. 

In 1884 the California orange created consternation in the hearts 
of Florida fruit-growers exhibiting at the New Orleans exposition. 
When the Los Angeles contingent saw that Florida was about to cap 
ture the premiums, they induced the judges to wait for their exhibit, 
meanwhile paying the expenses of the Florida exhibitors in order to 
induce them to remain. And when the luscious, golden California fruit 
arrived, the Floridans had to wrap their pale oranges in green and 
crimson tissue-paper to prevent an unfavorable contrast, and Califor 
nia took practically all the first prizes. The rivalry that started then 
continued, and Los Angeles newspapers never lost an opportunity of 
playing up storms, hurricanes, and disasters in "Frosted Florida." In 
1885, with the coming to California of the Santa Fe and its promotion 
work, there began a period of wholesale planting of orange-groves. 
T. S. Van Dyke describes the contrast between conditions in the Sev 
enties and the Eighties on one ranch. On his first visit there was 60 
acres of land on a little creek, indifferently cultivated with what the 
owner called "irritating ditches," because he said they were the most 
irritating things on earth; there were a few hives of bees, and there 



286 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

was a poor house of rough lumber mounted on stilts, set full in the 
sun. In 1885, ten years later, the new owner of this same property 
had built above the valley on a broad knoll, once cactus-covered, a 
handsome house surrounded by hedges of lime, cypress, and pome 
granate and India-rubber, camphor, and other tropical trees. The gar 
den was a profusion of geranium, fuchsias, heliotrope, roses, and 
honeysuckles; the orchard showed long, regular lines of orange-, 
lemon-, and olive-trees ; while in the vineyard there were thirty varie 
ties of grapes. The stream had been diverted with a concrete tunnel 
and cement-lined ditches, the barren hillside bloomed, and the sad 
gray land had been turned into a maze of green, while the plow had 
turned up rich chocolate-colored loam under the sand. 

This was the story of thousands of Southern California fruit- 
ranches. Returns were large, as much as $3,000 having been made in 
one year from a single acre. Land prices shot up, irrigation projects 
flourished, and in 1886 2,250 carloads of oranges and lemons were 
sold. In the Nineties, however, the California orange-growers began 
to experience financial trouble. To the country at large, oranges were 
a luxury to be indulged in only at Thanksgiving and Christmas or on 
some gala occasion, and not a staple article of diet; commission- 
merchants were more interested in their own profits than in those of 
the farmers; the railroads had no fast fruit-express service, and re 
frigerator cars were not developed, so the crop was often sold at small 
profit or a loss. To obviate these conditions the growers started the 
cooperative association that became the California Fruit Growers Ex 
change. Branch sales-offices were established in all large cities, mem 
bers delivered their entire crops to the association, and the industry 
was financially stabilized. In 1905 the president, Francis Q. Story, 
initiated an advertising campaign in Iowa; the Southern Pacific co 
operated by sending the fruit in trains adorned with banners, accom 
panied by much newspaper publicity ; bill-boards carried the slogan, 
"Oranges For Health California For Wealth"; and as a result the 
consumption of oranges in Iowa was greatly increased. Indeed, so 
successful was this state campaign that it was expanded to cover the 
whole country, and the trade-name "Sunkist" was adopted. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Story was busily engaged in improving growing 
and packing conditions in California; he led the growers in devising 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 287 
better methods of handling, in fumigating trees, substituting sharp 
clippers for hand-picking, installing rotary brushes to clean the fruit, 
adopting grading by machinery and wrapping in tissue-paper. In order 
to keep the identifying wrappers and name on the fruit until it was 
sold, the association offered consumers a silver orange-spoon in return 
for twelve wrappers and twelve cents. When the orange-growing in 
dustry had become an outstanding commercial success, an interviewer 
seeking to discover the reasons asked Mr. Story what the "Q" in his 
name stood for; he replied, "Quality," a word which summed up all 
that he had put into the industry. The association now ships 150,000 
carloads of fruit a year, owns plants for utilizing surplus fruit in 
making various chemical and flavoring products, and operates a factory 
for making the electric juice-extractors which have done much to 
increase the use of citrus fruits in soda-fountains and homes. The 
California Fruit Growers Exchange has been a major factor in the 
prosperity of Southern California, and one of the most successful co 
operative enterprises in the world. 

But the activities of Los Angeles civic leaders were many-sided. 
Not only did they include the building up of the citrus industry and 
the encouragement of other crops which made Los Angeles County 
the richest agricultural county in the United States. The coming of 
factories and industries was always actively encouraged; the need 
for ample rail connections with the outside world was never over 
looked ; and the opening of Los Angeles to the commerce of the sea 
through the development of a harbor was a project long uppermost in 
the minds of her citizens. 

It was the indefatigable Phineas T. Banning and a few others who, 
in 1869, induced Major Robert S. Williamson of the Army Corps of 
Engineers to make a survey of the shallow harbor of San Pedro to 
see what could be done towards bettering it. As result of his report 
Congress the next year appropriated $200,000 to straighten and deepen 
Wilmington Creek and to remove the shoal at its entrance so as to 
accommodate small coastwise vessels. Even if a few far-sighted pio 
neers guessed that this modest undertaking meant the beginning 
of a great ocean commerce for Los Angeles, the community as a whole 
was but tepidly interested, and many of the old settlers "figured that 
the Government must have a great deal of money to waste if it could 



288 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

spend so many thousands of dollars on a useless mudhole like the 
Wilmington Lagoon." 

Nevertheless, the backers of the project persisted at each session 
of Congress; and by 1892 the inner harbor had received twelve small 
appropriations totaling something over $500,000, the Wilmington 
Estuary had been improved so that four-masted schooners drawing 
more than 18 feet could be accommodated, and the government cus 
toms collections at the port almost equaled the cost of construction. 
In 1881 Stanford, then president of the Southern Pacific, inquired if 
the harbor could care for vessels of 20,000 tons, such as he proposed to 
put in service to the Orient, and was told that, although the inner 
harbor on the Wilmington Estuary could not, it would easily be pos 
sible to construct an ocean breakwater to make the outer harbor of 
San Pedro capable of caring for vessels of any size. 

But the prospect of making a really great port for Los Angeles 
was not bright, and certainly at this time no one in the harbor cities 
of San Francisco or San Diego would have considered it seriously. 
The sea-going aspiration of Los Angeles, Queen of the Cow Counties, 
was a joke. But the people of the community were in earnest, and in 
1881 they formed a Chamber of Commerce, which Secretary Frank 
Wiggins later made one of the most potent in the United States, with 
the avowed purpose of developing a deep-water harbor at San Pedro. 
Whenever a Representative or Senator arrived within hailing distance 
of Los Angeles, this organization would seize him and transport him 
to the harbor, while the boosters bombarded him with propaganda 
concerning the future greatness of the city and its foreign trade. One 
such visitor was Senator William P. Frye of Maine, of the Committee 
on Commerce, and as he stood on the barren San Pedro headlands 
after the 30-mile ride from Los Angeles, his reaction was not much 
more favorable than that of young Dana on his first trip. 

"Why, where are all the ships?" inquired the Senator from Maine. 
"As near as I can make out, you propose to ask the Government to 
create a harbor for you almost out of whole cloth. The Lord has not 
given you much to start with, that is certain. It will cost four or five 
millions to build, you say; well, is your whole country worth that 
much?" At this harsh speech the boosters' committee sought to explain 
how Southern California was destined to become great and to assume 




THE FIRST SPECIAL FAST FRUIT TRAIN FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 
June 24, 1886. Courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad. 




AN ORANGE GROVE IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY 
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 




LOS ANGELES HARBOR 

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 




THE LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT 
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 289 

major importance as a center for Oriental trade. But the Senator re 
plied with awful jocularity, "Well, it seems you have made a great 
mistake in the location of your city. If you Los Angeles people want 
a harbor, why not move the city down to San Diego ? There is a good 
harbor there." 

Despite the unfavorable opinion of the Senator from Maine, how 
ever, in 1890 Congress was induced to grant $5,000 for a survey of a 
deep-water harbor project for Los Angeles, and a commission came 
west to examine the possible sites and to hold public hearings. Al 
though there is no natural deep-water harbor along the coast near 
Los Angeles, there are several points where artificial harbors might be 
constructed. One of these is Santa Monica, developed by Senator 
John P. Jones of Nevada, who, having made a fortune in the Comstock 
Lode, where he started as a mine superintendent, had some years 
previously formed a scheme to develop silver-mines in the Panamint 
Mountains. So confident was he that these mines on the edge of Death 
Valley would rival the Comstock that he looked around for a seaport 
in Southern California from which to ship his ore. Santa Monica was 
his choice, and there he laid out a town and built a wharf and a rail 
road to Los Angeles. But the mines never produced, the road was sold 
to the Southern Pacific, and Senator Jones recouped his depleted 
fortune by booming Santa Monica as a seaside resort. Another possi 
bility was Redondo, near-by, where the Portland capitalist Captain 
John C. Ainsworth had built a wharf, connected by a narrow-gage rail 
way with Los Angeles. The third was the old port of San Pedro, served 
by the Southern Pacific, where the Terminal Railroad Company also 
had acquired trackage rights with the purpose of permitting other 
railroads to use its tracks to get access to the harbor. The Congres 
sional commission, having considered the various sites, decided San 
Pedro to be the most desirable, estimating that a favorable deep- 
water harbor could be made there by spending about $4,000,000 for 
a breakwater. 

Now the people of Los Angeles were ready to go forward with the 
project so near to their hearts. They would have their harbor at San 
Pedro, and that speedily, just as the government engineers had recom 
mended. But they reckoned without Collis P. Huntington, who had 
become interested in getting a port for Los Angeles when the Southern 



2QO THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Pacific began to fear competition from the northern railroads reach 
ing the coast at Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle. At this juncture he 
contrasted the advantages of having a harbor that all railroads might 
enter with one controlled exclusively by the Southern Pacific; and 
in 1892 he informed the Senate that the San Pedro harbor was not 
suitable because the ground was so rocky that piles could not be 
driven into it, and that the railroad was therefore abandoning its 
wharf there and building at Santa Monica. A board of five Army 
officers was appointed to examine the proposed sites, and again the 
decision was in favor of San Pedro. But Huntington went on building 
his million-dollar pier at Santa Monica, and his representative, ad 
dressing a Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce banquet, suavely re 
marked, "Somewhere on your border there is to be a harbor, and I am 
asked a question regarding Santa Monica, and the intentions of our peo 
ple. To be frank with you, I will say that their intentions seem entirely 
apparent. They are making a wharf there for deep-water vessels. They 
must intend to land at the wharf with deep-water vessels." 

At this point, Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times, 
entered the controversy, putting his newspaper actively behind the 
San Pedro project and declaring that Congress should not appropriate 
money, against the advice of its experts, for a harbor that would 
benefit only one corporation. Huntington added to the general unrest 
at a Chamber of Commerce conference by declaring, 

You people are making a big mistake in supporting this San Pedro 
appropriation. The Rivers and Harbors Committee of the House will 
never report in favor of that place not in a thousand years. I know 
them all and I have talked to them about the matter. Now, I propose 
to be frank with you people. I do not find it to my advantage to have the 
harbor built at San Pedro and I shall be compelled to oppose all efforts 
to secure appropriations for that site; on the other hand, the Santa 
Monica location will suit me perfectly, and if you folks will get in and 
work for that, you will^find me on your side and I think I have some 
little influence at Washington as much as some other people, perhaps. 

And he concluded his talk by banging on the table and saying, "Well, 
I don't know for sure that I can get this money for Santa Monica ; 
I think I can. But I know damned well that you shall never get a 
cent for that other place." 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 2QI 

Although faced with this powerful opposition, the Chamber of Com 
merce voted on the two sites and again decided in favor of San 
Pedro; but Huntington succeeded in getting the House Committee 
to consider his plea for a $4,000,000 breakwater at Santa Monica. 
The Chamber of Commerce objected, the Santa Fe protested that it 
would not have free access to Huntington's harbor, the Senate voted 
to postpone action for a year, and the New York World inquired, "Is 
this a government for the people, or a government by Mr. Hunting- 
ton, for Mr. Huntington ? The question may as well be settled in the 
Santa Monica-San Pedro controversy as anywhere." 

In Los Angeles the Free Harbor League was organized, and there 
was a campaign to get citizens to write their old Congressmen "back 
east," inquiring how long a crafty corporation could defraud the 
people of their right to a free harbor. Public finances were so low in 
1896 that it was held impossible to get a large appropriation for San 
Pedro, so California contented itself with asking for $390,000 to con 
tinue work on the inner harbor. But again they reckoned without 
Huntington and the magic his name worked in Congressional com 
mittee-rooms. When the Rivers and Harbors bill was reported to the 
House, the people were astounded to find an item of 2,900,000 for 
a breakwater at Santa Monica ; moreover, the House Committee said 
that if Southern California would not accept this, the San Pedro 
item would be stricken out also. The fight was carried to the Senate 
by Senator Stephen M, White, where, over Huntington's opposition, 
another commission was appointed which was to decide where the 
$2,900,000 appropriation was to be spent. Again the decision was in 
favor of San Pedro. So, ironically enough, the money wangled out 
of an economy Congress by the powerful Huntington was appropriated 
for the benefit of the rival harbor. 

Far from being licked, however, Uncle Collis persisted in his ob 
struction, hoping to throw the matter back into Congress where he 
could defeat it. Secretary of War Russell A. Alger declared that the 
bill of 1896 was not clear and that it had not taken account of sunken 
rocks at the entrance of the harbor; and when the Senate ordered 
him to proceed to call for bids, he refused, saying that the request 
should have come also from the House. When he said he had no 
money to advertise for bids, Los Angeles newspapers offered to pay the 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

costs; but this the Secretary thought would be undignified. Alger twice 
appealed to the Attorney-General for an opinion, and he succeeded 
in delaying matter,- two years before President McKinley ordered him 
to proceed immediately. Finally, in 1898, when the item making 
an initial appropriation of $400,000 for the construction of San Pedro 
harbor was reached in the appropriation bill in the House, Charles H. 
Grosvenor of Ohio rose to say that private enterprise meaning Mr. 
Huntington would build a harbor free of charge in the immediate 
vicinity meaning Santa Monica, and he suggested that the appro 
priation be postponed. Whereupon Harry A. Cooper of Wisconsin 
rose and said, 

This matter of San Pedro harbor is to me in many respects the most 
astonishing I have ever encountered since I have had a seat in this House. 
I do not believe it ever had its counterpart in the legislative history of 

the country Is it not strange that after two boards of Engineers had 

said that San Pedro was the only place to improve, nevertheless, the 
provision was inserted in the bill of the last session for the improvement 
of Santa Monica? ... It is time that people who propose to fight as these 
have, violating every precedent, should be taught a lesson that the patience 
of the American people on this subject has been exhausted. 

Thus ended the free-harbor fight, a fight which called out the 
courage and perseverance of the people in strongest measure and gave 
them a schooling in what could be done by determined cooperation 
which was to bear fruit for a generation in the building of a greater 
Los Angeles. In April, 1899, President McKinley touched a button 
which was to set in motion the machinery that should dump the 
first bargeload of rock for the breakwater ; but the mechanism failed 
to work, and the stone had to be laboriously pushed off by hand an 
episode which Charles D. Willard said was symbolic of the entire 
undertaking: "Nothing about it had come easily; it was all hard work, 
and but for the most tremendous individual and community exertion, 
it could never have been accomplished." For his efforts on behalf of 
the project, as secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Willard 
received a loving : cup, and the people erected a tablet on the build 
ing of the Los Angeles Times in appreciation of its effective service 
in the contest for a free harbor. 

The port of Los Angeles, wrested from an unfavorable coastline by 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 293 

an ambitious people, is now one of the nation's greatest. A maze of 
wharves and terminals lines its shores, and it is open to every rail 
road that enters the city. From the day when Wilmington Estuary 
had a bar over which the water was only 18 inches deep at low tide, 
the shallow mud-flats have been dredged and developed and the harbor 
protected until ships of any size and draft can be accommodated. 
And the people of Los Angeles County, having added $30,000,000 worth 
of improvements to the Government's $11,000,000, are now spending 
$7,000,000 more to extend the breakwater to protect the combined 
harbor of San Pedro and Long Beach. 

With the building of her harbor Los Angeles was on the way 
to becoming a great metropolis. The Southern Pacific and the Santa 
Fe took her products to all parts of the country, her steamship lines 
began to reach out to the Orient. Her hinterland was developing into 
one of the richest agricultural districts in the world. Her climate at 
tracted and her industries supported a growing population. But there 
was one portentous bar to her future progress. Not much was said 
about it, but to some of her wise men it was a nightmare the thought 
that the city was permanently limited and forever endangered by 
lack of water. 

By 1900 Los Angeles was reaching the limit of her water-sup 
ply; every apparent source was being tapped, and there was no 
more in sight. Already the underground water of the region was 
being overdrawn by the irrigated districts of Southern California, 
and for Los Angeles to make further inroads on that source would 
interfere with agriculture and the city's own prosperity. But one man, 
Fred Eaton, former mayor and former city engineer, was quietly 
working out a solution, and in 1905 he confided it to William Mul- 
holland, city engineer. It was no less than a spectacular plan to pierce 
the Sierras and build across desert and mountains an aqueduct 250 
miles long to bring water to Los Angeles from Owens Lake, a dead 
sea in the Inyo Desert. 

On various trips to this district Eaton had noticed the bed of a 
prehistoric river that had once run out of Owens Lake to the Mojave 
Desert before Owens Valley was cut off by a lava-flow, and he pro 
posed to utilize this to transport the water for a large part of the 
way to the city. After examining the project, Mulholland, who had 



294 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

been baffled by the water-supply problem, agreed that it was the right 
and apparently the only solution. Eaton had secured options on the 
lands and was prepared to go ahead with the project as a private 
enterprise if the city would not take it over ; but Mulholland seized 
it enthusiastically, realizing that the very existence of the city de 
pended on it, and declared that "If Los Angeles doesn't get this water 
now, it will never need it." Fortunately the Los Angeles Water Board 
was an organization of strong, able, and aggressive men, for quick 
action and secrecy were necessary. Mulholland estimated the cost 
of the project at $25,000,000, the Board told him to go ahead at 
once, and before land-speculators knew anything about it, the city 
had acquired the site and all the land needed and the announcement 
of the coup d'etat was made in the Los Angeles Times. 

Mulholland was a self-made engineer. While still a boy he had come 
to Los Angeles, from his home in Ireland, as a sailor. Having got a 
job as zanjero keeper of the irrigating ditches in the old pueblo, 
he studied engineering in his cabin at night until he became an ex 
pert; and many years later he was given the difficult post of chief 
engineer of the Water Department. When his plans were approved 
by a board of nationally known engineers, Mulholland pushed the 
scheme with energy, and in six years' time he brought the Owens 
River water into Los Angeles on schedule and within his original 
estimate. But not without many a struggle. Aside from its engineering 
difficulties, the project was fought so violently by private interests 
that it was finally necessary to get a bill through Congress granting 
free right of way for the aqueduct over public lands. And so strong 
were the opposing forces that without the personal insistence of Presi 
dent Theodore Roosevelt it would have been lost. 

From the foot of Mt. Whitney in the snow-covered Sierras the water 
was brought through Sequoia National Park, across the Mojave Desert, 
across the San Gabriel and San Fernando mountains, in the course 
of which hundreds of miles of highways and railroads were built, 
53 miles of tunnels, and a strange steel "jawbone" syphon to carry 
it down a precipitous mountainside. On a brilliant day in November, 
1913, while thousands looked on, the water was turned into the great 
spillway, and William Mulholland said, "There it is ; take it." This 
water has been used for irrigation schemes, it has enabled Los Angeles 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 295 

to take in other towns near-byHollywood, San Pedro, Wilmington, 
and it has provided electric power which the city has been able to 
sell at a low price. In the process the people of Owens Valley suffered, 
for the value of their property was ruined even when the property 
itself was not actually destroyed. President Roosevelt had realized that 
this would be so, and his willingness to have the city proceed was 
based only on the ground that the project would benefit a tremendous 
number of people, even if it should hurt a few. The people of Los 
Angeles have always maintained that they would pay in full for 
all damages suffered by the residents of Owens Valley, a start in this 
direction has been made, and an investigating committee has reported 
that the points at issue between the land-owners and the city can 
be satisfactorily adjusted. 

In the early part of the twentieth century another dream of Los 
Angeles began to take shape. For years there had been hopes of 
giving the city a direct connection with the country around Salt Lake 
City, Utah, and a shorter route to the East. With this end in view 
a company had been organized which obtained a franchise for a rail 
road along the east bank of the Los Angeles River. It built to Glen- 
dale, Whittier, and Pasadena, and was then taken over by interests 
which extended the road to Long Beach and San Pedro and called 
it the Terminal Railroad. It was still purely a local road with a 
harbor connection, however, when Senator William Andrews Clark 
of Montana took it over and laid out a line to the northeast, crossing 
the desert and mountain country, to give Los Angeles direct access 
to Salt Lake and to bring the city nearer to Denver, Omaha, and 
Eastern cities than was San Francisco. 

A picturesque figure, Senator Clark, who conceived and built the 
Los Angeles, San Pedro and Salt Lake Railroad. Born at Connellsville, 
Pennsylvania, in 1839, he had come west as a young man, after being 
a student of law and a school-teacher in Missouri. He drove his own 
ox-team to Colorado and worked in the mines there until 1863, when 
he went on to the bonanza mining district of Bannack, Montana. 
Fifteen-hundred dollars' worth of gold washed out in Horse Prairie 
Creek provided him with capital to buy and bring in a load of 
provisions from Salt Lake, the beginning of a prosperous commercial 
venture. Finding a shortage of that most necessary commodity, 



296 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

tobacco, in the Helena, Montana, mines, he went to Boise, Idaho, 
and bought several thousand pounds, all he could find in the city, haul 
ing it back to Last Chance Gulch, where he sold it to the eager miners 
at his own price. In 1866 he rode on horseback clear to the Pacific 
Coast and brought back goods for his Elk City store ; he took a con 
tract to haul the mails from Missoula, Montana, to Walla Walla, 
Washington; and he built up a banking and wholesale business in 
Deer Lodge and Butte, Montana. Feeling that he needed more 
technical knowledge to help him in buying and developing mining 
properties, he went back to New York and studied at Columbia Uni 
versity, after which he built the first stamp-mill in Butte. He fol 
lowed this with the first smelter, and gradually he became owner of 
some of the richest mines in. Montana. In Arizona he bought the 
great United Verde copper-mine, built a model town for workmen 
at Clarksdale, expanded his interests to include refrigerating ware 
houses, grain-elevators, and a sugar-mill. Montana elected him to the 
United States Senate, and finally, to crown his achievements, he de 
cided to build a railroad. 

So Los Angeles profited by the opening in her back yard, in 1905, 
of a line which tapped vast deposits of lead, iron, copper, and gold 
ores, districts producing marble, sandstone, coal, silica, borax, and 
salt seven barrels of the waters of the Great Salt Lake making 
one barrel of that commodity. There were timber-lands and farming 
valleys too, rich in wheat, alfalfa, vegetables, and fruit. Passing 
through the Meadow Valley Wash for 100 miles in southern Nevada, 
the line had to be lifted high above it to avoid floods, and it used 
the old gorge where the Mormons first blazed the trail on their over 
land journey, opening up new scenic glories which were later to be 
come Zion National Park. In entering the Meadow Wash Canon Clark 
found himself at war with E. H. Harriman. The great railroad magnate 
had decided that Clark might effect a combination with the Denver 
and Rio Grande and the other Gould lines to form a transcontinental 
system, and he resolved to check this. At this time Harriman con 
trolled the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific, and Gould con 
trolled about one-half of the total mileage of railroads in the South 
west. The Gould holdings included the Missouri Pacific, the Texas 
Pacific, the St. Louis and South Western, the International and Great 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 297 

Northern, a total of 21,000 miles. Practically all the Southwestern 
freight traffic was routed via St. Louis or Kansas City over his lines. 
Just before the depression of 1893 an old subsidiary of the Union 
Pacific, the Oregon and Utah Northern, had graded 290 miles from 
Salt Lake into the narrow Meadow Wash Canon, and Harriman now 
revived this abandoned project. He occupied the canon; Clark did 
likewise. There were battles between gangs of workmen, and the 
courts decided that both roads had a right to build there. So a 
compromise was effected whereby each acquired a half-interest in 
the other's right, and Harriman made sure that Clark would not 
enter a combination with Gould. 

Aside from his satisfaction in developing Southern California, in 
which, he said, "my faith has never wavered, 77 the Senator received 
$29,000,000 for his railroad, in 1921, from the Union Pacific. Mean 
while, he had spent 12 years building a palace at Fifth Avenue and 
Seventy-seventh Street in New York and filling it with Persian rugs, 
Spanish tapestries, paintings, and statuary. The bequest of this col 
lection, worth $3,000,000, was refused by the Metropolitan Museum 
after the Senator's death because he had stipulated that it must be 
housed intact, and the Museum officials felt that the objets d'art were 
so varied that they would quarrel like Kilkenny cats. Los Angeles 
later benefited culturally from the benefactions of his son, William A. 
Clark, Jr., who long supported its Symphony Orchestra with a gift 
of $200,000 a year and opened to the public his library, containing 
one of the finest collections of English classics in the world. 

With the coming of Senator Clark's road the transportation needs 
of Los Angeles were amply provided for. Some competition for ad 
vantageous locations in the Southwest still continued, however, be 
tween the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific. In 1904, Harriman 
wanted to change the location of the Southern Pacific between Lords- 
burg, New Mexico, and Yuma, Arizona, in order to avoid heavy grades. 
He chose the Gila River route; so did the Santa Fe. A contest ac 
cordingly developed, with the rival companies organized to occupy 
Gila Canon. In filing its route Harriman's road was 20 minutes ahead 
of President Edward P. Ripley's, but both began construction. When 
the case was taken into court, the Santa Fe, fearing defeat, capitulated 
by selling Harriman its line. Harriman J s policy in dealing with compet- 



298 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

ing roads was to smooth out their difficulties by cooperating on 
matters of mutual interest. To this end he offered to give the Santa 
Fe people two seats on the Southern Pacific Board of Directors in 
exchange for two on theirs. When this offer was not accepted, he pur 
chased $30,000,000 worth of Santa Fe stock and placed H. H. Rogers 
and Henry C. Frick as his representatives on the Santa Fe board, 
after which there was peace between the two roads. 

But, beneficial to the city as were the transcontinental railroad- 
builders, the most potent single factor in the upbuilding of Los Angeles 
as a world city was undoubtedly Henry Edwards Huntington, who 
abandoned transcontinental railway-building to concentrate his at 
tention on local electric lines. This favorite nephew of Collis P. 
Huntington set his organizing genius to work to develop Los Angeles 
as a center of interurban transportation, and he built up a traction 
system such as had never been seen before. 

The fourth of seven children of Solon and Harriet Huntington, Henry 
was born at Oneonta, New York, on February 27, 1850. As a boy he 
worked in his father's general store, and in later life he often spoke 
of how he used to get up before six in the morning to sprinkle the 
floor, sweep it out, and tidy up. So industrious was he and so shrewd 
that the villagers generally agreed, "You can't get ahead of Ed Hunt 
ington" an opinion which his later life amply supported. When a 
young man he went to New York City, applied for a job at a hard 
ware-store whose proprietor he knew, and when he was told that 
there was nothing available except a place as porter, he took that. 
On the small pay he earned he lived frugally in a New York hall 
bedroom, refusing to ask his rich Uncle Collis for money, a mode of 
conduct which greatly appealed to the elder Huntington. Recognizing 
the boy's ability, Collis Huntington soon took Henry to West Virginia 
to inspect a railroad property he had just bought, and he left him 
in charge of a sawmill cutting ties at West Albans, West Virginia. 
Under the young man's management the production of the plant 
was increased and costs lowered, and he soon bought a small interest 
in it, later borrowing money and buying the entire plant. 

At the age of 36 Henry Huntington became manager of the Ken 
tucky Central Railroad and was given a free hand in reorganizing 
It, which he did with such success that he made a name for himself 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 299 

among railroad men. In 1892, on his way to San Francisco to work 
for the Southern Pacific, he stopped at Los Angeles and was enter 
tained at the San Marino Ranch near Pasadena, which so impressed 
him with its beauty that in later years he bought it for his home. 
As he traveled all over the state, he became convinced that Southern 
California was to have a remarkable growth, and in 1898 he began 
to sell his San Francisco holdings and to invest in Los Angeles. In 
1900 he was made first vice-president of the Southern Pacific Railway, 
president of the road in Arizona and New Mexico, and president of 
the Market Street Cable Company. In his management of the street- 
railway of San Francisco he had become convinced that cable- and 
steam-cars would be entirely supplanted by electric traction, an idea 
which he later developed on a vast scale in Los Angeles County. In 
1902 he moved to Los Angeles and began the construction of the 
intricate network of electric street-car lines and interurban railways 
which made that city the nerve-center of Southern California. Street 
car service was poor when he arrived and bought into the Pacific 
Electric traction system, and Huntington, working as E. H. Harriman 
did in the national railway field, rapidly improved it, connecting and 
consolidating lines and extending trackage throughout the suburban 
area. So large was his view of the possibilities and so prodigious his 
construction projects that the local capitalists who were originally 
interested in the property with him could not agree with his plans for 
expansion, and they withdrew, leaving him to carry on the enterprise 
alone. 

Having begun the Pacific Electric system in 1902 with the Pasadena 
short line, Huntington rapidly added lines to Monrovia, Whittier, 
Glendale, Newport, San Pedro, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Sierra 
Madre, and Redondo. In 1911 the system was sold to the Southern 
Pacific, but Huntington remained in charge and retained complete 
control of the Los Angeles street-railways, continuing to absorb and 
extend lines until in 1916 the total interurban trackage was 1,063 
miles. In 1903 Huntington started the building of downtown sky 
scrapers with his Pacific Electric Building, and the stimulus furnished 
by the building of his electric lines started real estate moving in 
quantity for the first time since the Eighties. In later years the sys 
tem was enlarged to include a subway which brought all the Holly- 



300 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

wood and San Fernando Valley street-cars into the heart of the city 
underground. 

As he knitted the whole of the Orange Empire into a unit with 
Los Angeles as its center, Huntington turned his attention to the 
development of real estate in the suburbs served by his lines, buying 
immense tracts of land, laying them out with beautifully landscaped 
winding roads and parkings, and planting them with trees. He built the 
magnificent Huntington Hotel at Pasadena and organized numerous 
public-utility companies to serve the southland. And Los Angeles did 
not disappoint him. Indeed, it grew faster than its most ardent boosters 
predicted. After announcing that $64,000,000 was to be spent to en 
large the Pacific Light and Power Company and reorganize the Los 
Angeles Railway Corporation, Huntington said in 1914, "I have found 
this region has grown so rapidly that we will have to develop power 
that we calculated would not be needed until 1917. Los Angeles has 
developed three years ahead of our mathematics. I have always had 
the utmost faith in its growth but the rate beats my most sanguine 
expectations. It is a problem to handle the people who wish to ride." 

In 1900 Collis P. Huntington had died, leaving his nephew several 
millions and the bulk of his fortune to his widow with the request 
that Henry should supervise the estate. In 1913 the widow and Henry 
were married, and he retired from business in order to develop his 
magnificent estate at San Marino and to put into the collecting of 
books and paintings the same energy and genius for organization 
that he had given to his railways. "I retired from business before 
business retired me," he said. "That is the reason why I have a docile 
liver, an appreciative stomach and muscles which are joyfully re 
sponsive of demands." On his ranch he began an extensive botanic 
garden, sending his superintendent on a tour of the United States and 
Mexico to collect plants and obtaining others from every continent ; 
he built up a comprehensive collection of tropical and subtropical 
plants, including an eight-acre cactus garden of 20,000 specimens, 
with the idea of discovering every plant of beauty or utility that would 
grow in Southern California. His purchases of private libraries, single 
volumes, and rare manuscripts continued until he had assembled one 
of the choicest collections in the world. 

Concentrating on the literature and history of English-speaking 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 3OI 

peoples, Huntington's library included a Gutenberg Bible, more 
Shakespeare folios than are owned by the British Museum, Beverley 
Chew's library of early English literature, the Kemble-Devonshire 
collection of English plays, the Church, Hoe, and Halsey collections, 
the Chatsworth library of the Duke of Devonshire, the Britwell Court 
collection of Americana, and 40 per cent of the known editions of 
books published in England in English before 1641. In 1920 all these 
books, worth some 20,000,000, were brought from the Metropolitan 
Club in New York and elsewhere to San Marino. Later Huntington 
added Lincoln manuscripts and mementos, the manuscripts of various 
American authors, and a million manuscripts owned by the Bucking 
ham family. His collection of paintings included canvases by Velasquez, 
Gainsborough, Reynolds, Romney, and various other English, Amer 
ican, and modern Spanish painters. To house these treasures a build 
ing was erected on the estate, and Huntington presented the whole 
to the public, creating in the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art- 
Gallery a foundation modeled after that of Leland Stanford Junior 
University. To build up the library so as to make it useful to scholars 
Dr. Max Farrand was made director of research in 1926. The value 
of the benefaction was estimated at $40,000,000. Mrs. Henry Hunting- 
ton also presented the family place at Oneonta, New York, to the city 
for a park and gave Harvard University $250,000 for the Collis P. 
Huntington Laboratory of Bacteriology at the Medical School and 
$100,000 for the Collis P. Huntington Memorial (Cancer) Hospital. 
Henry Huntington adopted his wife's son by her first marriage, Archer 
M. Huntington, who became founder of the Hispanic Society of 
America. Mrs. Huntington died in 1926, and a year later Henry 
Huntington died while on a trip to Philadelphia. 

It was said that Collis Huntington could ride across the country 
on railroads he owned, and Henry could do the same on railroads of 
which he was a director. He once said that although Darius Ogden 
Mills had declared in 1888 that he was afraid of the Central Pacific, 
thinking it a poor investment, he was proud to say that the financier's 
son and daughter, Ogden Mills and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid, had be 
come the two largest stockholders of the Southern Pacific. One of his 
largest enterprises was the Newport News Shipbuilding Company. 
His relations with his employees in this concern and others were 



302 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

pleasant, and he said lie gave the resident employees full responsibility 
for the promotion of the shipbuilding enterprise, spending scarcely 
more than an hour a day on its affairs although it was an enterprise 
employing 6,000 men. He often entertained his electric-railway em 
ployees, and at one picnic held at Redondo the families of his 5,000 
workers brought the total of his guests to 25,000. He was popular with 
his men, and one of his engineers expressed the prevalent feeling of 
his employees when he said that he was proud to have worked for 
him, and that while he had worked hard, he had never worked half 
as hard as Henry Huntington. 

Like his Uncle Collis, who said there was never a day that did 
not give him a chance to work 1 8 or 20 hours, Henry always worked 
long hours and assumed arduous duties. In later years he watched 
the easy, pleasure-filled lives of the sons of his friends and complained 
that it was hard to find young men who would knuckle down to con 
centrated hard work. He long had an aversion for college-trained men, 
although he finally outgrew it. He also disliked to see women in busi 
ness and never hired them if he could help it. 

Huntington advised young men to save if possible, and if not, to 
go into debt to invest: and he once said, in an interview on his 
return to Los Angeles from a long trip, 

I am always averse to saying anything that may influence people in 
investing for I would not want to be the means of causing any one to lose 
money; but, by and large, I will say that whatever real estate has been 
sold of my holdings since I went away will double the money of the 
buyers. I always have done business on the principle of not trying to get 
all that I thought a piece of property was really worth; the best way to 
do is to sell when you can get at a fair profit, reinvest the money and 
sell again and keep your money rolling. The way the city has grown in 
all directions has astonished me and I'm rather difficult to astonish, for 
I know from years of experience how Los Angeles does extend. 

Of street-car finances he said. 

For some years past the street car company has returned me red ink 
balances running yearly up in the many hundreds of thousands of dol 
lars; now the tide seems to have turned; if the street railway had been 
in other hands it would have been in a receiver's possession long ago 
and we would have had six or ten cent fares, as they have in many other 
cities. I am determined to fight it out on a basis of a five cent fare. 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 303 

From his experience in Los Angeles he came to be an advocate of 
the consolidation of the Bay cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, 
Alameda, and Oakland, of which he said, 

A metropolitan area so likeable, in fact loveable, cannot fail to grow in 
those graces with which nature and the initiative of her people have 
endowecj her so richly; and to that growth municipal unity would be 
likely to contribute. These cities are practically one now, just as there are 
cities around Los Angeles which are practically one with that city. There 
is a general feeling in the south that consolidation, wherever affected, 
has benefited alike Los Angeles and the communities which have come in. 

It is largely due to the imagination and practical ability of Henry 
E. Huntington that Los Angeles has expanded to absorb so many of 
its suburbs and that its retail market has come to include eighteen 
suburban cities and a total population of 2,500,000. And his system 
of quick transportation extending in all directions from Los Angeles 
is responsible for the extraordinarily extensive and prosperous subur 
ban growth of the city and the consequent absence of slums. For 
this made it possible for workers to go out into the country and 
buy homes of their own, and it developed one of the richest districts 
of small fruit-ranches and gardens in the world. When it was suggested 
that Henry Huntington should have a biography written, he said, 
"No; never. I have been approached regarding a biography, but I 
do not want that. This Library will tell the story. It represents the 
reward of all the work I have ever done and the realization of much 
happiness." He was in favor of everything being done to beautify 
Pasadena and enrich its cultural life, including the Little Theater, 
and added that there is also "beauty in going to the mountains 500 
miles away, and freeing power from its bond of rock, and bringing 
it here to do its work of making this wonderful region more wonder 
ful, more comfortable." 

Along with all the benefits derived from the work of powerful in 
dividual builders, Los Angeles was constantly profiting from the re 
markable spirit of cooperation of her own business men. Consistently 
and persistently they have sought to develop not only the city, but also 
the adjoining towns in Los Angeles County and the whole of Southern 
California, for they have realized that all were interdependent. The 
civic spirit made its appearance early. In 1845 Regidor Don Leonardo 



304 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Cota prayed that an order be given to make the inhabitants white 
wash their houses and said, "If I succeed in this I shall be satisfied 
to have cooperated somewhat to the glory of my country." And as 
early as October 24, 1874, the editor of the San Bernardino Guardian 
publicly recognized this abiding spirit in Los Angeles and recorded 
his convictions: 

The progress made by the city in three years is almost incredible. New 
and magnificent buildings are being built, new industries have been cre 
ated, and new lines of commerce opened. The entire community seems 
imbued with progressive enterprise. There is none of the happy-go-lucky 
free and easy element among the business men. They understand the value 
of cooperation for the public good. They are not afraid to spend ten 
dollars to make twenty; the merchants extend their ramifications through 
out the neighboring counties with true metropolitan confidence. Los An 
geles looks upon itself as the present and future commercial center of 
Southern California, and all her energies are put forth to maintain that 
proud preeminence. Every project tending to concentrate commerce in 
Los Angeles is liberally supported. Its moneyed men have their eyes con 
stantly fixed on the future of their beautiful city. No cost is spared to 
divert the trade of the surrounding counties to Los Angeles. The people 

really seem in love with their city If Wilmington can be engineered 

into a port and we believe it can then Los Angeles must become a great 
commercial city. ... Its people , deserve it as they are the most public 
spirited and cooperative people on the Pacific coast. 

Successively proving the truth of this estimate in their efforts to 
build the harbor and to bring in water from the Owens Valley, Los 
Angeles was to display yet another and more astonishing achievement 
in cooperation and energetic driving power the building of the 
Boulder Dam in Nevada, 200 miles away. When the Owens River 
water system was completed, Los Angeles had a population of 300,000, 
and It was estimated that her new supply would permit the city to 
grow to a million, a size which her most optimistic inhabitants thought 
of, at the time, as the limit of expansion. But the million soon came, 
and again the city was forced to take thought of increasing her water- 
supply. Extensive surveys showed that all the water of the high Sierras 
adjoining Southern California was being used, and that if an adequate 
supply was to be obtained, it must come from outside the state. How 
ever, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which had once objected 
to the building of the Moffat road near far-away Denver on the 




THE VENICE OIL FIELD 
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 




AN IRRIGATED VINEYARD IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. 




BOULDER DAM 

May i, 1934. Height, 360 feet above foundation, with 370 feet still to go. Courtesy 
of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation. 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 305 

ground that California needed the water-power, was not to be balked 
by mere distance. So the Angelenos looked over into the state of 
Nevada and began to figure on a plan to dam the Colorado River and 
bring a large part of its power and water to the City of the Angels. 
Securing the cooperation of the Imperial Valley, which needed the 
dam to protect it from threatened floods and to increase its productive 
acreage, the Southern Californians set out on what may be described 
as the battle of the century. Private electric and water-power interests, 
irrigation enterprises, those opposed to government ownership, and 
all the states entitled to Colorado River water-rights entered the 
grand melee, with the result that only the most prodigious driving 
effort was able to push the project through Congress. But the Los 
Angeles people never wavered in their fight, for they knew that with 
out this additional source of water the city and its neighbors would 
face a disastrous shortage within a few years. 

The project was nothing less than the damming and harnessing of 
the Colorado River, the third largest in the country, near Las Vegas, 
Nevada, to provide hydro-electric power and water for Southern Cali 
fornia, to prevent floods, and to bring additional irrigation to the 
Imperial and Coachella Valleys, 200 miles away. Rising in snows of 
the Rockies 1,700 miles distant, the Colorado was one of the most 
terrifying forces for destruction in the United States, for it carried 
the silt torn away from the backbone of the continent down to the 
Gulf of California and had built up its delta until it flowed along land 
higher than the surrounding valleys. At the Mexican border it was 
100 feet higher than the Imperial Valley canal, and the lower part of 
the valley was 300 feet below the river. Obviously, dikes and levees 
could not do much to hold back the river that had hollowed out the 
Grand Canyon, and to the people who lived in the Imperial Valley 
it was a constant menace. So its 60,000 inhabitants gladly joined with 
the Angelenos, who looked covetously upon the possibility of getting 
a billion gallons of water daily for drinking, bathing, and watering 
lawns, along with the energy of a million horses to do their work. 

Authorizing the expenditure of $165,000,000, the Swing- Johnson bill 
finally passed Congress and was signed by President Coolidge on 
December 14, 1928, the three pens used in making his signature going 
to three who had fought most heartily for the project Senator Hiram 



306 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Johnson, Representative Philip D. Swing, and George G. Young, 
publisher of the Examiner, the Hearst paper in Los Angeles. There 
followed seemingly endless quarreling among the states involved, in 
cluding a conference at Santa Fe where Secretary Hoover represented 
the Federal Government, until it was finally agreed that the water 
should be divided equally between the lower-basin states of Arizona, 
California, and Nevada and the upper-basin states of Colorado, New 
Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The Metropolitan Water District was 
organized to contract for the use of the water in Southern California, 
and the Secretary of the Interior was empowered to proceed to work 
as soon as he had valid contracts sufficient to pay off the cost within 
50 years. When these contracts were forthcoming from Los Angeles, 
Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank, the Southern Sierra Power Company, 
the Los Angeles Gas and Electric Corporation, and the California 
Edison Company, and when the belligerent state of Arizona and its 
bulldog Governor George W. P. Hunt were finally satisfied with the 
allocation of water, the Southern Californians rejoiced. 

And now engineers and workmen are hurrying to completion the 
great Boulder Dam, "set in the path of the turbulent Colorado in a 
sheer-walled narrow gorge at the bottom of an inaccessible canon 
in the remotest region of the United States, a work ranking with the 
greatest ever attempted by human hands." And Los Angeles and 
thirteen neighboring communities have combined to build the Colorado 
Aqueduct across the State of California, a costly construction project 
which will provide the greatest water system the world has ever known. 
To build it will require the employment of 10,000 men for six years, 
with a pay-roll of over $100,000,000 ; an equal amount will be spent for 
materials, equipment, and supplies; and its completion will add two 
or three billion dollars annually to the production of industry, mining, 
oil, and agriculture and will enable Los Angeles to provide water for 
a city the size of New York. 

The same powerful force of cooperation has been turned upon every 
civic problem confronting Los Angeles. Cooperation resulted in the 
building of the $8,000,000 Biltmore Hotel; the Los Angeles Coliseum, 
seating 80,000 people; the raising of a million-dollar fund to advertise 
Southern California; the formation of a plan for a civic center near 
the old plaza; the building on a sage-brush-covered hillside of the 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 307 

beautiful Hollywood Bowl, where Mrs. Artie Mason Carter inaugurated 
the Symphony Concerts and Mrs. Christine Stephenson the Pilgrimage 
Play; and the staging of the Olympic Games in 1932. But, potent as 
have been the effects of whole-hearted cooperation, Los Angeles was 
also the recipient of two golden showers of fortune either one of which 
would be sufficent to build a city oil and the movies. 

The city had long been a center for the financing of petroleum 
production in the West and in Mexico, for it was the home of Edward 
L. Doheny and also of his less known partner, Dr. Norman Bridge, 
who had come west from Chicago when he was a young professor in 
Rush Medical College. Settling in Sierra Madre on account of his 
health, Dr. Bridge invested his small capital in his friend Doheny's 
projects, and these investments grew to such dimensions as to enable 
him to make princely gifts to the California Institute of Technology 
at Pasadena arid the University of Southern California. Doheny's oil 
developments began in the Nineties, when the demand was only for 
kerosene and axle-grease, and continued through the period of fuel 
oil, locomotive oil, and automobile gasoline. And Doheny financed 
archaeological explorations, built the beautiful St. Vincent's Church 
(dubbed by the facetious "Doheny's fire-escape" this after the Teapot 
Dome unpleasantness in which many Los Angeles business men be 
lieved that he was unjustly assailed), and gave the University of 
Southern California its magnificent library. In the early nineteen 
hundreds scattering deposits of oil were found literally as well as 
figuratively in the backyard of Los Angeles, and in the front yard as 
well. Beautiful lawns in the best residence districts, gardens, beach- 
resort properties, and tide-lands, all were tapped by the ubiquitous oil- 
derricks, bringing aesthetic ruin but financial profit which permitted 
the owners fittingly to express their aesthetic ideals in other localities. 
Prospecting continued, and in later years whole forests of derricks 
sprang up at Huntington Beach and in numerous other outlying 
districts, and California's production of oil rose to more than $300,- 
000,000 a year, with a large part of the profits pouring into Los Angeles. 

Most amazing of all the gifts of the gods to Los Angeles, however, 
if Aimee Semple McPherson Hutton and her mother be excepted, was 
the movies. To the suburb of Hollywood, founded by Kansas prohibi 
tionists, came from New Jersey, soon after 1900, David and William 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Horsley, who rented a barn and turned it into the first motion-picture 
studio, though they refused to buy the five-acre property for $4,000 
because they had been warned against California real-estate salesmen. 
With only $2,500 capital the Nestor Film Company began shooting a 
western "horse opera" next day, frightening the natives as their troop 
of hard-riding armed cowboys pursued the fleeing villain up Beachwood 
Drive into the hills where now is Hollywoodland. Before this, Colonel 
William N. Selig had rented an old mansion downtown in Los Angeles 
and produced against its ornate backgrounds the first full-length film, 
"In the Sultan's Power," and the old Bison Company had turned out a 
"Western" every day and a half at Edendale. Lured by the almost 
constant sunshine and the variety of mountain, ocean, rural, and desert 
scenery, which made it an ideal locality for shooting the ever-popular 
"Westerns" as well as other pictures, Eastern film men continued to 
fiock to Hollywood. In 1910 the old Biograph Company arrived, with 
David Wark Griffith as director, Mack Sennett, Owen Moore, and 
Mary Pickford. Essanay and Kalem followed, and in 1913 came Jesse 
L. Lasky, bringing Cecil B. De Mille and Dustin Farnum. He promptly 
bought property around his stables for a few thousand dollars, estab 
lished a permanent studio, and, as Hollywood grew, saw the value of 
his real estate mount to millions. 

The first big "wow" of the movies that knocked them out of their 
seats from Key West to Tacoma was the "Birth of a Nation," a super- 
spectacle produced by Griffith with great skill from the novel The 
Clansman, using thousands of extras, making stars of Henry Walthall, 
Mae Marsh, and Lillian Gish, and bringing in $15,000,000 to the box- 
office. Griffith, who had originated the cut-back, the fade-out, and 
sustained suspense, to say nothing of improving the final clinch, had 
already startled the world by paying Mary Pickford $1,000 a week to 
appear in "Tess of the Storm Country," and his successes helped to 
make Hollywood secure as the capital of the motion-picture industry. 
In 1913 Charlie Chaplin came to the coast as the star of Karno's troupe 
of English vaudevillians, producing a "Night in an English Music- 
Hail" In this act, which went the rounds of the old Sullivan and 
Considine circuit, he portrayed an inebriated gentleman in evening 
dothes sitting in a box observing a performance on a miniature stage, 
and his amusing pantomime, expressing approval and disgust as the 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 309 

various acts appeared, was such as to prove that words were not 
necessary to excite an audience to violent laughter those hearty "belly 
laughs" that the movies so yearned for. He went to work on the 
Keystone lot for $150 a week, his first appearance being as an inter- 
polated feature in an automobile-race picture, in which he would stroll 
unconcernedly out on the course with his ridiculous hat, shoes, cane, 
and mustache just as the racing cars shot by, appearing constantly 
in danger of sudden death and making hair-breadth escapes such as 
only Chaplin could negotiate. Within a few years he was getting 
$10,000 a week, and so was William Farnum; Theda Bara had created 
the verb "to vamp 77 ; William S. Hart had begun to make "westerns" 
for^a coffee-and-doughnuts salary; and a San Diego high-school girl, 
Anita Loos, had been paid $15 for a scenario. Mary Pickford had 
signed a million-dollar contract; Douglas Fairbanks had been advised 
by Griffith to take his athletic prowess into Keystone comedies; 
Rudolph Valentino had become a matinee idol of the country through 
"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"; Betty Compson, Thomas 
Meighan, and Lon Chaney had been brought to stardom by "The 
Miracle Man" ; and Charlie Chaplin had brought Jackie Coogan, "a 
small boy who had winked at him in a Los Angeles Railway Station," 
to fame in "The Kid." In 1921 came the Arbuckle trouble, the death 
of Wallace Reid, and the Taylor murder, all arousing such attention 
and criticism in every village of the country that the producers sought 
to placate public opinion and avoid state censorship by the appoint 
ment of a dictator who should know how to put on the soft pedal The 
man who got the job was the Indiana Presbyterian and arch- 
Republican Will H. Hays, who resigned as President Harding's Post 
master-General to act as the film industry's public-relations expert. 

By this time the motion-picture companies constituted a major 
industry, operating on great "lots" where they built up city streets, 
Moorish palaces, and English cathedrals as suited their fancy; their 
expenditures ran as high as $1,000,000 for a single picture; the rise of 
their stars was meteoric and their lives an Arabian Nights 7 dream. 
And now, for better or for worse, for blessing or for curse, the flicker 
ing films had penetrated every cross-roads village of America, carried 
strange new ideas of the white man and his civilization to the remote 
corners of the world, and made a visit to Hollywood the goal of young 



310 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

and old the country over. No such aura of romance was ever before 
spread over an American community ; the talk of oranges and climate 
that drew the hordes of tourists in the Eighties was as nothing com 
pared with this new magnet; the lure of seeing the stars and, better 
yet, actually getting a chance to work in the movies drew to Los 
Angeles a steady stream of ambitious and stage-struck youth. To a 
few near-Venuses and Adonises who happened to have luck and to 
screen well, it brought fortune ; to many, intermittent work as "extras" ; 
to most, disappointment and a job as a clerk or beauty-parlor operator 
or soda-jerker. But those who stayed in Los Angeles, and there were 
many, made their distinctive contribution to the make-up of this 
strangest, most amazing, and, in some respects, most American of 
cities. 

Never before had such a conglomeration of elements been gathered 
into one mixing-bowl and in a few swift years fused into a city. There 
was to begin with the old Spanish and Mexican population, which fell 
more and more into the background as the city grew ; there were the 
wealthy Easterners and Mid- Westerners who came in the first boom, 
and a tremendous influx of well-to-do people from Iowa, Nebraska, 
Kansas, Missouri, and other predominantly rural states, who came 
steadily, year by year, and helped to create the second boom of 1923, 
when the city was making an annual population gain of 100,000 with 
clocklike regularity. Some of the older people sought a comfortable 
place in which to retire from active life, in a climate where it was no 
longer necessary to get up on a winter morning and thaw out the 
pump. Many of these retired farmers ^bought suburban property where 
they could raise gardens and fruit, while the younger members of the 
family entered into whatever occupations were open to them. There 
came also thousands of health-seekers to find in the balmy air relief 
from tuberculosis and other maladies that were benefited by a mild 
climate. There came people who had grown rich in other parts of the 
country, seeking a pleasant place in which to spend their money ; and 
there were swarms of promoters, real-estate men, and ballyhoo artists 
of all kinds to help them spend it. There were hordes of winter and 
summer tourists living in luxurious hotels and in tiny cottages. And to 
this collection were added those who had suddenly become millionaires 
in Los Angeles from ventures in oil and real estate, and those glamorous 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 

darlings of fortune, the movie queens and kings, who had been miracu 
lously transported from lives of humdrum mediocrity to imperial 
splendor at the touch of the new Aladdin's Lamp. Finally, there was an 
army of happy, ne'er-do-well "tin-can tourists," who cranked up their 
old Fords, gathered together enough money to pay for gas, and joyfully 
rolled their creaking and exhausted motor-cars across the desert into 
Los Angeles to settle down and spend the rest of their days by the 
lazy sunset sea. 

With such elements superimposed upon and fused into the core of 
the city's population a substanital core, whose cross-section would 
show much the same sort of business men, working-men, and house 
wives as the ordinary American city Los Angeles came to scintillate, 
in many aspects of its life, with a tinsel brilliance which was unlike 
anything else on land or sea. Where else could one find such an assort 
ment of ice-cream stands built in gigantic freezers with the handles 
slowly turning, windmill bakeries, refreshment stands hollowed out of 
an orange or a hot dog even a restaurant in a building modeled to 
suit its name, the Brown Derby? Where could one see such vast areas 
of pink- and yellow-stucco cottages, their sides decorated in jazz 
patterns, their walls as thin as tar-paper? Where else could one dis 
cover such an assortment of fortune-tellers, faith-healers, "psycholo 
gists," swamis, strange religions, raw-food enthusiasts, nature doctors, 
health homes, bungalow courts, "shoppes" of all kinds, that iniquitous 
Los Angeles invention, the cafeteria, and Aimee Semple McPherson? 

The vogue of the incredible Sister Aimee typified much that was 
bizarre, romantic, cheap, sensational, thrilling, aspiring, and naive in 
the life of Los Angeles. This evangelist was plentifully endowed with 
magnetism, beauty, sex-appeal, and that subtle, indefinable something 
which gives a few chosen souls, like Sophie Tucker, Texas Guinan, 
and William Jennings Bryan, the power to reach out and pick an 
audience up and hold it in the hollow of the hand. With her mother 
she began evangelistic meetings in a tent, and within a few years she 
had so attracted people and money that she owned an enormous white 
tabernacle overlooking Echo Lake Park and turned thousands away 
from her meetings every week. This tabernacle itself was a symbol of 
Los Angeles ; it was, in its way, gorgeous, and it was like no other 
church in the world. It was, in fact, a gospel plant rather than a 



312 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

church, for it Included a training-school for missionaries, innumerable 
offices and meeting-rooms, a prayer-room where the faithful constantly 
sent up their supplications, a commissary for food to be given to the 
poor, a publishing house, sewing-rooms where the women made gar 
ments, a luxurious home for Sister Aimee, and a radio station. Aimee 
also improved on the ordinary church service by adding a stage on 
which she appeared with elaborate scenery and light-effects to illustrate 
each sermon. There was a brass band playing secular music, to some 
of which she had written sacred words. There was a veritable vaude 
ville show with each service, and to get in at all one had to go several 
hours ahead and, if lucky enough to get a seat, patiently wait for the 
performance to begin. Moreover, concealed under all the blare and 
ballyhoo there was undoubtedly considerable sincerity, even if it was 
overlaid with artifice and trickery ; the woman had a hold on a powerful 
force whether or not she was entirely worthy of it or completely 
understood it, and many could testify to the fact that she had lifted 
their lives out of the slough of despond and given them "that old-time 
religion." 

These things were the froth and foam on the life of Los Angeles, the 
strange spectacles that impressed first, along with the electric name- 
sign on the lawn of one of the movie stars and the startling fact that 
100,000 people attend the Iowa Picnic. But there were always much 
more powerful influences at work underneath, civilizing influences 
which have made Los Angeles truly great. There was, first of all, a very 
high plane of physical living: food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, 
was abundant and cheap; the city was clean, well paved, and well 
provided with sanitary facilities; swimming-pools and playgrounds 
were plentiful ; there were practically no slums ; the average income 
was Mgh ; and the people could live easily and simply, spending much 
of their time, winter and summer, out-of-doors. In their teachers and 
m their plants the city schools were unsurpassed ; there were several 
coBeges, as well as the University of Southern California and, later, 
a branch of the University of California ; the churches were numerous 
aud vigorous ; there was a city-wide library system ; clubs flourished, 
some, sch as the Friday Morning Club for women, occupying costly 
building^ of their own. And, added to all these advantages, the people 



THE SELF-MADE METROPOLIS OF THE PACIFIC 313 

of Los Angeles were constantly surrounded by beauty, sunshine, 

flowers, green grass, palm-trees, towering mountains, and the sea. 

Inevitably this natural beauty impressed itself upon that part of 
Los Angeles fashioned by man. The gleaming white sky-scraper tower 
of the City Hall, the bright murals in the Public Library are evidence 
enough, but the pattern of clean-lined simplicity coupled with brilliance 
of color can be traced everywhere. Everywhere there has been added to 
the beauty and opulence and graciousnss of nature the products of the 
art and skill of man. No longer is there any feeling of architectural 
bad taste in Los Angeles ; on the contrary, there Is no other city in the 
world that possesses such numbers of magnificent houses set in beau 
tiful gardens, not in one district of the city alone, but in scores of 
districts miles upon miles of palm-lined drives bordered with beau 
tiful and costly homes. And there are seemingly endless sections of 
unpretentious but attractive small houses, each with its own pocket 
handkerchief of lawn and flower-bed, and, incidentally, its garage. 

From this favored city which has had the energy and driving force 
to build itself to greatness from unfavorable beginnings, which has 
come to maintain an extraordinarily high standard of living, which 
benefits the year around from fresh air and sunshine and the outdoor 
life, is it too much to expect the emergence of a new race? Not if the 
bronzed athletes of the University of Southern California, who have 
carried away so many championships from the older institutions of 
the country, are to be accepted as a sign and a portent of its possible 
physical development. Not if the robust, sun-tanned thousands who 
play winter and summer on its ocean beaches are an indication of its 
future health and beauty. Not if the vision of its builders make it the 
center of culture of which they dream. If, in generations to corne, such 
a new people does develop, it will be Greek in its physical perfection 
and love of simple beauty and the out-of-doors ; it will inhabit a region 
as fertile and well tilled as the valley of the Nile; and it will have 
the rugged strength of that sturdy Nordic stock which has peopled our 
plains and prairies, which first drove the plow into the wheat- and 
corn-lands of America. 



CHAPTER XII 

SAN DIEGO, LEFT OFF THE MAIN LINE 

SAN DIEGO, the city of the perfect bay and the perfect climate- 
so perfect and so frequently mentioned by the inhabitants that 
Los Angeles long ago dubbed the town "Baynclimate" is the 
favored spot where European civilization had its beginning on 
the Pacific Coast. The "landlocked and very good harbor" was 
described by the Portuguese Juan Roderiguez Cabrillo, who visited it 
in 1542 and then returned to Spain to tell of his adventures. He found 
a good audience, for the Spanish had long had a romantic interest in 
California "whose foam is amber and whose sands are gold." Her 
novelist, Montalvo, had described it as an island very near this side 
of the Terrestial Paradise, peopled by courageous and beautiful black 
women, without a man among them, who made their weapons, and the 
harnesses of their beasts, of gold. This musical-comedy setting must 
have intrigued the imagination of every good Spaniard, but it was 166 
years before any attempt was made to colonize this fabulous land. 
And then it was discovered that the inhabitants were not beautiful 
Amazons at all, but fat and ungainly Indians with protruding abdomens 
and shrunken legs, who must have looked like the creations of a comic- 
strip artist and who lived on bugs, lizards, and raw fish. Alas, for the 
romantic dreams of Spanish conquest! 

The Spanish colonization began when Spain, which had occupied 
Baja (Lower) California, in what is now Mexico, decided to move 
northward and include Alta (Upper) California as well. The Catholic 
Order of Jesuits had been given permission to colonize and Christianize 
California, and they had raised the "Pious Fund" for this purpose ; but 
their political activities brought them into disfavor in Spain, and they 
ware esxpelled. The Church's work in Baja California was given to the 
Dominicans, and the extension of it to Alta California was assigned to 
the Franciscans. So Father Junipero Serra came north from Mexico 

314 



SAN DIEGO 315 

to join with the newly appointed Governor, Caspar de Portola, in 
colonizing and Christianizing Alta California. Reaching this "country 
of joyous aspect," where the good padre found vines loaded with 
grapes and roses like those of Castile, they established themselves on 
the lovely bay named for the Spanish saint San Diego de Alcala. On 
July 16, 1769, the cross was raised, the royal standard unfurled, and 
Father Serra celebrated mass at the open-air altar, praying that they 
might "put to flight all the hosts of hell, and subject to the mild yoke 
of our holy faith the barbarity of the gentile Dieguenos." On this 
summer day, as the mission bell rang out from the branches of a 
near-by tree, the community of San Diego was born, and the civiliza 
tion of the Pacific Coast had its beginning. 

But no converts were made for a year, and since no supply ships 
came to replenish the company's larder, the Governor set a day for 
departure from Alta California. This was a cruel blow to the hopes of 
Father Serra. Because he could not bear to see the expedition fail, he 
prayed fervently for nine days that help might come to them. On what 
was to be their last day in San Diego, March 19, 1770, he went to the 
top of Presidio hill, overlooking the harbor, and prayed all day long- 
prayed that the country might not be abandoned, that the savages 
might be saved, that his plans for Christianizing California might not 
fail. And at sunset there miraculously appeared a sail. Captain Perez, 
on his way to meet Portola at Monterey, had lost his anchor and put 
into the harbor for safety. So, with supplies and reinforcements at 
hand, all thought of leaving San Diego was abandoned, and the padres 
joyfully continued their attempt to Christianize the natives. By 1773 
seventy-three converts had been made, and a new San Diego mission 
was built farther inland where the soil was more fertile. Although 
the Indians, both converts and non-converts, were treated most gently, 
a party came down from the mountains on November 4, 1775, robbed 
the mission, and burned it. On that dreadful night, Father Luis Jaume 
rose from his bed, advanced to the howling savages, and, as they 
seized him, said, "Children, love God." He was cruelly murdered and 
mutilated ; and when Father Serra heard of his noble death, he said, 
"Now the soil is watered; the reduction of the Dieguenos will be 
completed." And again it was proved that the blood of the martyrs is 
the seed of the Church. 



316 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Within a few years there was a line of sixteen missions, a day's 
journey apart, extending up the California coast from San Diego along 
El Camino Real, and in these the Franciscan fathers taught the Indians 
the Christian religion and attempted to reclaim them from savagery. 
From mission to mission, with untiring zeal, Father Serra walked 
after the custom of the Franciscans, scorning the use of horses despite 
an infected leg which was sore all the rest of his life. His enthusiasm 
was such, it is recorded, that when he founded the mission of Los 
Robles, he ordered the bells hung in the branches of a tree and, as he 
rang them, shouted, "O, Gentiles! Come, come to the holy church. 
Come, come, come to the faith of Jesus Christ!" "Why do you tire 
yourself?" his followers asked. "There are no Indians to hear. It is 
useless to ring the bells." And Father Serra replied, "Let me satisfy 
the longings of my heart, which desires that this bell might be heard 
over all the world, or at least that the Gentiles who dwell about these 
mountains may hear it." With such zeal and hope was the Christian 
religion planted in California. 

The padres provided a place for the neophytes or converts to live in 
the buildings of each mission, taught them to plant the fields and 
harvest the crops, instructed them in the arts of carpentry, leather- 
work, blacksmithing, milling ; taught the women cooking, sewing, and 
weaving; and built up a prosperous, industrious civilization along 
600 miles of frontier. Each mission excelled in the production of some 
commodity wine, brandy, soap, leather, hides, wool, oil, cotton, linen, 
hemp, tobacco, salt, or soda, and their total products sold for about 
$2,000,000 a year. Since the Franciscan fathers were cultivated men, 
many having been scholars, engineers, soldiers, artists, lawyers, and 
physicians before they joined the Order, they were able to transform 
thousands of the ignorant, low-grade Indians of California into skilled 
artisans. As to their ability to teach the Indians, one need only look 
for proof at such an object of craftsmanship as the simple, graceful 
copper baptismal basin on its square stone pedestal in the San Gabriel 
Mission, beautifully fashioned by Indian workmen trained by the 
padres. 

There were finally twenty-one missions in California, with 30,000 
Indian converts, nearly 500,000 cattle, and 60,000 horses and mules, 
raising 40,000 bushels of grain a year. Then came the debacle. Mexico 



SAN DIEGO 317 

ousted Spanish rule and secularized the missions, reducing them to 
parish churches, and divided their lands among the settlers and the 
Indians. Within a few years the whole system had fallen into ruins, 
and the Indians had reverted to savagery and gone back to the moun 
tains. So ended a system of community life which had taken half a 
century to build and which had given the Indian at least a modicum 
of civilization, even if it treated him more or less as a child and in 
some cases probably inflicted on him the restrictions and cruel treat 
ment accorded to a serf. California remembers this colorful epoch of 
her past in the Mission Play by John Steven McGroarty, produced 
every year at San Gabriel. 

Through all the mission period the old town of San Diego slept 
peacefully in its warm sunshine. It had been a Spanish town, it had 
lived under the rule of Mexican Empire and Mexican Republic, and 
on January 19, 1847, it awoke to find itself in the possession of the 
United States. Politics and war disturbed it little, and, as William E. 
Smythe says in his History of San Diego, "It was taken, lost, and taken 
again by the American forces before the new flag went up to stay. In 
the midst of it all, the stream of social gaiety flowed on with only 
slight interruptions, and the joy of it was actually increased, at times, 
by the presence of gallant soldiers from abroad." Two years later San 
Diego, whose population was then 500, began to feel the effects of 
being under Yankee rule. It took its first step toward becoming a city 
when it was made a port of call by the Panama Steamship Line, and 
next year a steamship line to San Francisco was begun. But the town 
remained a village and would have long continued so had it not been 
for the arrival, on April 15, 1867, of Alonzo Erastus Horton, the man 
who woke the sleeping community to life, the father of modern San 
Diego. 

Bora in Union, Connecticut, on October 24, 1813, Horton had grown 
up near Oswego, New York, clerking in a grocery, learning the cooper 
age trade, working as a sailor, owning and commanding a schooner 
carrying grain to Canada. Advised to go west on account of tubercu 
losis, he went as far as Milwaukee, where he engaged in buying and 
selling land and warrants and founded the village of Hortonvilk, 
which he sold for a profit of $8,000. In 1851 he came to California, and 
after trying work in the gold-mines he decided there was more money 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

to be made in trading in gold-dust, which he did with profits as high as 
$1,000 a month. He also located some ice-fields in the mountains, cut 
the ice, and hauled it to the mining camps, making a profit of $8,000. 
Returning east via Panama in 1856, he was dining in a hotel with 200 
other passengers when one of the riots broke out in which the natives 
periodically robbed and killed foreigners. Horton assumed command 
of the party, held off the mob with pistols, shooting several, and got the 
Americans back to the ship, losing his baggage and $10,000 in gold-dust 
in the process. When the ship reached New York, Horton went to 
Washington, as representative of the passengers, to try to get recom 
pense for the losses they had incurred. By the time a settlement was 
reached, in 1861, Horton had made so many trips to Washington and 
had become "so obnoxious to the commissioner from New Granada that 
his own name was stricken from the list of creditors." 

Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War he returned to the Pacific 
Coast and spent some time in mining and trading in the Cariboo dis 
trict in Canada. In 1866 he returned to San Francisco and opened a 
furniture-store at Sixth and Market Streets. One night a friend invited 
him to a meeting where a lecturer discussed the ports of the Pacific 
Coast and their future. Commencing with Seattle, the speaker pointed 
out the sites of the big cities of the future, ending with San Diego, 
which he said was one of the most healthful spots in the world and 
possessed an unsurpassed harbor. Horton was so interested he could 
not sleep that night, and at two o'clock he got up and looked at the 
map to see exactly where San Diego was. Next morning he told his 
wife he was going to sell out and go there, and within three days he 
had sold all his stock and taken passage. When he got off at the wharf, 
he thought the sage-brush-covered site the finest he had ever seen for 
a city, but no one lived there ; the old town was miles away at the foot 
of Presidio Hill. When he arrived at this point, after a long jogging 
wagon-ride, he said to one of the merchants, "I would not give you 
five dollars for a deed to the whole of this. Never in the world can you 
make a city here. It doesn't lie right. The city ought to be down by the 
wharf. I have been nearly all over the United States and that is the 
prettiest place for a city I ever saw." 

Thinking that he might buy 40 acres, Horton asked if there was any 
land for sale and was told that any quantity could be bought if put up 



SAN DIEGO 319 

for auction by the city trustees. But he found the trustees were holding 
office illegally after their regular term had expired because the town 
did not wish to spend money for an election. The county clerk refused 
to call an election because he said it would cost too much. "How 
much?" asked Horton. 

"As much as five dollars," replied the clerk. 

"Here is ten/' said Horton. "Call the election." 

He went to a service at the Catholic Church, dropped five dollars 
among the dimes in the plate, and after the service told Father Ubach 
of his plans. "Who do you want elected for trustees?" asked the priest. 
Horton told him, and he said, "You can have them." They were 
elected, and the auction took place under trustees legally entitled to 
sell the land. 

At the auction Horton bought 1,000 acres at an average of 26 cents 
an acre. On a fractional section near what is now the center of the city, 
he says, "Judge Hollister bid $5 over me. I told him he could have it 
and then he begged me to bid again. I finally raised him 25 cents and 
he said, 'You can have it. I wouldn't give a mill an acre for all you've 
bought. That land has lain there for a million years and nobody has 
built a city on it yet.' Yes,' I said, 'and it would lay there a million 
years longer if it depended on you to do it. 7 " 

Under Horton's management New San Diego thrived. He built a 
wharf costing $45,000, gave away many lots free on condition that the 
owners would build on them, and sold many more. Every time a 
steamer from San Francisco arrived, he would sell $15,000 or $20,000 
worth of real estate. He never missed an opportunity to improve the 
appearance and desirability of his town. Down near the water-front 
were new-built houses which Horton thought would make a better 
showing If they were whitewashed; he offered a free supply of lime 
and brushes for this purpose, but the owners said they had no time to 
do the work. Then Horton offered to hire men to whitewash the sea 
ward sides of the houses, and after this was done, the people liked the 
result so well that they decided to whitewash them all over and finished 
the job themselves. "These houses," he* says, "made a fine show, and 
people coming in on the steamers thought the town was growing 
very fast." 

In later life Horton said he had given away a million dollars' worth 



32O THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of property and sold an equal amount. He sold the plaza to the city 
for $10,000, though offered $50,000 by private interests. He subscribed 
$5,000 to secure a telegraph line from Los Angeles ; he started an inde 
pendent line of steamers to San Francisco, forcing the fare down from 
$60 to $30 round trip and freight from $15 to $9 a ton; he built a fine 
hotel, the Horton House, and spent $8,000 lobbying in Washington to 
get a railroad to San Diego. 

As early as 1854 the first railroad, the San Diego and Gila, was or 
ganized to build to Yuma, Arizona, there to meet whatever line might 
arrive from the East and connect it with tide-water at San Diego's 
harbor. Although 8,500 acres of land was granted, it remained a rail 
road on paper only, for the Civil War destroyed the influence of the 
South and consequently the Southern railroad route, with the result 
that the first transcontinental railroad went to San Francisco instead. 
But the far-sighted leaders of San Diego realized that the future of 
their city depended on getting a rail outlet from the East to their 
harbor, and they never ceased trying to bring this about. 

Numerous schemes for building railroads to San Diego along the 
32d parallel tantalized the citizens, and finally, in 1871, the great 
Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad obtained a charter for 
his Texas and Pacific, to extend from the Mississippi River to the 
Pacific Ocean. Whereupon Horton went to Washington to induce the 
company to build simultaneously from both ends of the line. In 
August, 1872, Scott came to San Diego by steamer with General Gren- 
vffle M. Dodge, the builder of the "Union Pacific, who was to have 
cktrge of construction, and "all San Diego drew a breath of relief and 
liope^ Scott's demands were moderate: he wanted the old San Diego 
and Gik land-g^ant, a right of way from the ocean to the Colorado 
Miror, ad teminal lands. On April 27, 1873, "Father" Horton threw 
fee fast sbwrffri of dirt for building the new road and said he felt 
mere hoi^ than if he had been elected governor. But the town's 
was soon turned to defeat. Ten miles of road were graded 
'Soett; went to Paris to sell Ms bonds. As "railroad king" of 
rhe was enthusiastically received, and Paris bankers agreed to 
the road ; but Scott kf t the city to dine with the King of the 
Belgians, and in the intervening 36 hours there occurred Wall Street's 
Friday, wiefe the ^reat financial house of Jay Cooke and Com- 



SAN DIEGO IN 1846 

W. H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth, Missouri, 
to San Diego, California, 1848. 




THE MISSION OF SAN DIEGO DE ALCALA 

Lithograph after a drawing by Charles Koppel in Reports of Explorations and 
Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad 
from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, 1853. 



ALONZO E. HORTON GEORGE CHAFFEY 

THOMAS A. SCOTT 
FRANK A. KIMBALL JOHN D. SPRECKELS 

Horton, from the Herbert R. Fitch Collection, courtesy of the San Diego- 
Calif ornia Club; Chaffey, from J. A. Alexander, Life of George Chaff ey; Scott, 
courtesy of the Pennsylvania Railroad; Kimball, courtesy of the California State 
Library; Spreckels, courtesy of Frye and Smith, Los Angeles. 



SAN DIEGO 321 

pany failed. Consequently, when he returned to Paris, the bankers 
refused to sign their agreements. In San Diego Horton was left with 
an empty building which he had built for the railroad offices, and 
swarms of real-estate buyers besieged him asking to be released from 
their contracts, to whom he returned all the money they had paid. 

Huntington and Crocker, building their Southern Pacific south from 
San Francisco, dallied between San Diego and Los Angeles; but the 
former town still clung to Scott, and the latter provided a subsidy, so 
the city at the Silver Gate lost out again. Scott appealed to Congress 
for a subsidy to build his road, but he was opposed and defeated by 
Huntington, and in 1876 he offered to relinquish his San Diego lands 
to any other railroad that the people could induce to build to their city. 
As a result of Scott's failure the town's population fell from 4,000 to 
2,500, and the people were despondent; but there was at least one man 
who never lost faith in the ability of the town to become a railroad 
terminal and who made this attainment his main object in life. Frank 
A. Kimball, with his brother, had purchased the National Rancho 
south of San Diego in 1868 and had laid out the town of National 
City^ built a wharf, and developed a small community. In 1869 he tried 
to interest General John C. Fremont in building his Memphis and El 
Paso to San Diego Bay; in 1878 he wrote Cornelius Vanderbilt, who 
replied that he "never built a mile of railroad any faster than pushed 
to it by competition." A little later Jay Gould told him, in response to 
his plea for a road, "I don't build railroads ; I buy them." 

Failure to interest these railroad men only spurred Kimball on. In 
the spring of 1879 he called a secret meeting of business men at which 
$450 was subscribed to send him east, and he raised the remainder 
needed by mortgaging his house. At Philadelphia he found there was 
no hope of reviving the Texas and Pacific ; in New York he learned 
that no help could be expected from Huntington; so he went on to 
Boston and began a three months' campaign to attract the Atchison, 
Topeka and Santa Fe. This road was building west and would have to 
have an outlet on the Pacific, although Its directors had no thought of 
building to San Diego. But Kimball talked with President Thomas 
Nickerson and with the board, and he talked so, successfully that the 
railroad acted favorably. For this enterprising San Diegan offered not 
only 10,000 acres of his own land at National City for a terminal, but 



322 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

$10,000 in cash to pay for the right of way and further assistance in 
pushing the matter through Congress. The railroad engineers reported 
favorably, and all went well until the Santa Fe decided to join hands 
with another railroad project which already had a land subsidy, the 
Atlantic and Pacific. This affiliation required the roads to enter Cali 
fornia far north of San Diego, at Needles, and they hoped to make 
their terminus San Francisco. Again Kimball went east and raised the 
ante, this time offering 6,000 more acres on which to build a railroad 
town. Thomas Scott was induced to release his old Texas and Pacific 
lands to the city, a local group built the California Southern Railroad 
from San Diego to San Bernardino to connect with the Santa Fe, and 
on November 18, 1885, the first through train from the East arrived. 
Now San Diego felt that its future preeminence was assured, for its 
people believed that Providence had designed their harbor to be the 
ocean outlet for Los Angeles arid all of Southern California. As the San 
Diego Calif ornian remarked, "The fact is that for years the Los An 
geles papers have found their greatest delight in willfully misrepre 
senting our harbor and city, well knowing that it is far superior to the 
puddle at San Pedro as the Pacific Ocean is to the Sacramento River." 
The Los Angeles Times, however, continued to label its dispatches 
from San Diego with the derisive head-line } "Baynclimate" ; said that 
the San Diegans awaited the arrival of the railroad as the Pueblo 
Indians awaited ,the coming of Montezuma ; and when the first trains 
arrived, carried an article under the supercilious head-line, "Happy 
San Diego ! Ambitious Little City Wild with Joy." And later the Times 
gave her southern neighbor a little sound advice : 

It seemed to many of our people for some years a question whether 
the coming of the railroad was a blessing or a curse. People had suffered 
themselves to expect too much; their hopes were not always grounded 
In reason, and in many cases were doomed to disappointment or to be 
long deferred. It will be so in the case of San Diego. The new connection 
will be a great benefit and will be the means of bringing to her a measure 
of prosperity otherwise impossible for her to attain, but her citizens will 
find out very soon that the railroad alone will not make them rich, pros 
perous and happy: they will have to put their own shoulders to the wheel 
and push with might and main to win. The prosperity of a city depends 
largely upon the energy and enterprise of its business men. Given the 
resources and advantages necessary to make a flourishing city, and there 



SAN DIEGO 323 

is still needed the brain power, brawn power, will power and money power 
of strong, daring, and yet level headed and conservative men in order to 
make the combination of successful elements complete. Success follows 
intelligent and persistent effort: God helps those who help themselves. 
Let our San Diego friends, whose success we shall gladly record, remem 
ber this prime truth. 

The Santa Fe, however, did not do all that San Diego expected ; it 
established no steamship lines to the Orient, its grand terminal melted 
into air, and four years later it transferred its general offices to Los 
Angeles. But the railroad had given San Diego a new impetus, and it 
began to grow. With the finest summer and winter climate in Cali 
fornia, beautiful scenery, and a spacious harbor, San Diego became a 
Mecca for Easterners, real-estate prices shot up overnight, and by 1887 
the population was 30,000. It was a time of lush enthusiasm, grandiose 
predictions of future greatness, and inflated prices, and real-estate 
advertisements reached rare heights of literary display, as the following 
sample shows: 

Here upon block 42, Middletown Addition, we are surrounded by a 
grander view than can be seen anywhere else, even in this favored land. 
Loma, to our right, with brow of purple r.nd feet of foam outlined against 
a sky of crimson. Far down the southern horizon towers Table Mountain 
outlined against the gathering dusk. The electric lights glint across the bay 
to sleeping Coronado and San Diego buzzes and hums at our feet. 
Buy these four lots on one of which we stand, pay us five hundred dollars 
for them it will be an enchanting site for a home and an investment 
that will repay you thousands. 

One day when the San Diego boom had just .about. spent itself, a 
gleaming white yacht sailed into the harbor, and its skipper came 
ashore to buy supplies and look at the city of "Baynclimate" an 
occurrence which caused some excitement among the town's business 
men for the visitor was none other than the wealthy and aggressive 
young San Franciscan, John Diedrich Spreckels. If they could only 
interest this powerful financier in their city, they thought, he could 
do much for San Diego. So they called upon him, banqueted Mm, 
and even offered him franchises for any project he might be interested 
in starting. And Spreckels was deeply impressed with the possibilities 
of this town which as yet had no outstanding capitalist to boost and 
exploit it, for it offered him the opportunity to play at development 



324 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

on a big scale without competition. He was 34. He was able and ambi 
tious. He had plenty of money. So he adopted the town. 

John D. Spreckels was the son of Claus Spreckels, the California 
sugar king, who had arrived in San Francisco in '49 and had become 
a successful brewer. Having noticed the waste in the manufacture of 
sugar, in 1863 he returned to New York to master the technique of 
sugar-refining, after which he went to Hawaii. There he bought planta 
tions and built mills and became such a power that King Kalakana, 
to whom he loaned $1,000,000, was said to take all his orders from 
him. At 14 his son John went to Europe alone to study at Hanover 
Polytechnic, where he mastered chemistry, mathematics, and music; 
but when he accepted a challenge for a duel, he was peremptorily or 
dered home by his father. At 22 John was superintendent of one of his 
father's sugar refineries, having begun at an ordinary workman's job 
at $50 a month, and shortly he went to Hawaii to train other super 
intendents. Always interested in the sea, he soon built a soo-ton 
schooner there, named it the Claus Spreckels, and applied to his father 
for freight, underbidding all competitors. Then he organized the ship 
ping and trading firm of John D. Spreckels and Brothers, returning 
to San Francisco and buying a fleet of nine tugs. He joined the 
Vigilantes; shot a San Francisco newspaper editor who printed dis 
paraging remarks about the elder Spreckels' management of his com 
panies; established the Oceanic Steamship Company to link Cali 
fornia with Australia and New Zealand ; became a duly qualified deep- 
water shipmaster, and became a power in California journalism by 
buying the San Francisco Call. 

This was his story when he chanced to drop into the city of "Bayn- 
cMmate," and the rest of his life is the story of San Diego. For he 
became the greatest single factor in its growth and development. His 
first enterprise was the building of a wharf, and having watched the 
wasteful methods of handling coal at San Pedro, he designed model 
bunkers for the efficient coaling of ships, At about the time he com 
pleted this, the boom burst, and the Santa Fe announced that it would 
be compelled to abandon its San Diego branch because it could not 
pay expenses. In this emergency John Spreckels offered to provide 
the railroad with coal on credit in order to keep the trains running. 
When the account reached $500,000, the railroad offered to give him 



SAN DIEGO 325 

the branch line to settle it, but he told them he had so much confidence 
in the future of San Diego that he would wait for his money. 

Not only was the railroad in difficulties, but every other enterprise 
was suffering from the collapse in values. Among these was the 
Coronado Beach development begun by E. S. Babcock on the long, 
narrow "silver strand" across the bay. This scheme, including the 
palatial tourist hotel and a town and summer camp, had resulted in 
the sale of $2,000,000 worth of lots, but it was now bankrupt. So 
John D. Spreckels added Coronado to his holdings, completed the 
beautiful and luxurious hotel, provided the peninsula with water, rail 
road, and ferry service, and built a tent city which attracted thousands 
of tourists. During the boom T. S. Van Dyke had brought water down 
from the mountains to San Diego, and Babcock had organized the 
Otay and Tecate water companies; but in the early Nineties there 
was so severe a water famine that baths were prohibited and drinking- 
water was peddled in the streets. Again John D. Spreckels came to 
the rescue and built an adequate water-supply system, the Southern 
California Mountain Water Company, laying down the sound principle, 
"Get your water first, for without water you get your population 
under false pretenses and they quit you when the water runs dry." 

Meanwhile, San Diego had added another illustrious visitor to her 
population. This was the king of the penny press, Edward Wyllis 
Scripps "Lusty" Scripps his biographer calls him who came to San 
Diego in December, 1890, as a tourist, hired a horse and buggy, and 
drove out over the mesa toward the mountains. Fascinated by the 
flowering shrubs, the blue sky, and the dry air as dry as his favorite 
Algiers or Egypt, where he had been sent to recover from lung trouble, 
he decided to make this place his winter home; and that afternoon 
he purchased 400 acres on a little rise overlooking mesa and mountain. 
Later this was increased to 2,100 acres, and here he built "Miramar," 
a 6o-room one-story house of whitewashed brick and glass with a court 
and fountain in the center, the first large modern Spanish-type house 
to be built in Southern California by an American. In seven years 
Scripps completed the house, planted trees and gardens, and put in a 
water-supply system ; and he built roads radiating from it so success 
fully that the people of the county called upon him to head their road- 
building commission. 



326 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Originally attracted to the place because it would isolate him from 
his business interests, which included the Cleveland Penny Press, 
Cincinnati Post, and other newspapers, he soon found himself lured 
into the local newspaper game; he bought the San Diego Sun, and 
when it lost money, turned it over to a $15 a week reporter named 
Porterfield. When it finally climbed out of the red, he gradually added 
others to the Western group, including papers in Los Angeles, San 
Francisco, Fresno, Berkeley, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, and 
Spokane, and from his San Diego home he ruled these and his other 
newspapers throughout the country. All were purchased at bargain 
prices, and most of them became valuable properties. 

In 1900 Scripps bought a quarter-interest in the town-site of La 
Jolla, a subdivision left over from the boom, obtaining 500 lots for 
$3,200, and from the development of this lovely seaside resort his 
brother, Fred, made a fortune. When the city of San Diego asked him 
to purchase from a San Francisco bank a ranch it needed for water 
supply, he did so, spending $35,000; but the bond election failed, John 
D. Spreckels accused him of speculating in public utilities, and when 
he was left holding the bag, he swore off all real-estate operations 
forever. While in San Diego he expanded his chain of newspapers, or 
ganized the Newspaper Enterprise Association, bought and built up 
the United Press, and to initiate the public into the discoveries of 
scientists he organized Science Service, of which Edwin E. Slosson 
became editor. During those years he built his newspapers into such 
a power that Postmaster-General Albert S. Burleson wired him, after 
President Wilson's second election, "I want you to know that I know 
it was the Scripps papers that determined the election." In many of 
Ms enterprises his sister Ellen was a close associate, and she con 
tributed one of his first newspaper features, the "Miscellany." Ed 
ward gave the University of California the Scripps Institute for Bio 
logical Research at La Jolla, and Ellen endowed Scripps College for 
Women, on the Pomona College campus at Claremoni, between 
San Diego and Los Angeles. In addition the Scripps name lives in 
San Diego in the roads he built and the thousands of eucalyptus 
trees he planted on the barren mesa. 

But Scripps and Spreckels were ever enemies. Each owned a news 
paper in which he belabored the other, Scripps championing the cause 



SAN DIEGO 327 

of the workingman and the common people against a grasping 
monopolistic capitalist, and Spreckels accusing Scripps of radicalism 
and unfair and libelous statements concerning his aims and interests. 
Spreckels felt, and rightly, that he had contributed much to the up 
building of San Diego, for, as he said, when he came to the city, "I was 
not a capitalist seeking new investments ; I was a young man seeking 
opportunities for doing things on a big scale." So he went on with his 
developments. He bought the entire south side of Broadway, building 
hotels, a newspaper plant, an office-building, and a magnificent theater. 
He gave a public library and a city hall to Coronado. He tried to 
attract capital for factories. He bought banks and in one instance 
saved one such institution from failure through his own generosity. 
He built a city-wide traction system, and since the city charter per 
mitted only 25-year franchises, which were insufficient to attract 
capital, he used the new initiative and referendum to get the people 
to vote 5o-year franchises, after which he vigorously extended his 
railways. 

The work of John D. Spreckels had been a strong antidote for the 
general debilitation and headache that followed San Diego's boom. And 
others made valuable contributions to the city's permanent well-being. 
Among the more picturesque examples of these was the U. S. Grant 
Hotel, built by Ulysses S, Grant, Jr., as a memorial to his father, and 
the beautiful development at Point Loma where Katherme Tingley 
established the international schools and headquarters of the Theoso- 
phists. Most valuable of all was the work of the many land-owners and 
farmers who developed San Diego's fertile country, planted orange 
and lemon groves, and laid the beginning of a prosperous agriculture. 
But away to the east still stretched that vast sea of burning sand, the 
Colorado Desert, which was considered a total loss so far as economic 
value or practical use was concerned. This great desert was formed in 
past ages by the rushing Colorado River pouring into the Gulf of 
California, carrying the silt torn away from the soil of the Rockies and 
the Grand Canon and depositing it in a vast delta. This gradually 
filled the upper end of the Gulf and built up a wide barrier of desert 
sand which cut off the waters at the northern end to form the Salton 
Sink, 250 feet below sea level. Always this desert had been a horror to 
all who had to cross it, but one man at least had looked upon its arid, 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

useless waste with the eye of a dreamer and had seen a way to make it 
friendly to man. As early as 1853 Dr. O. M. Wozencraft of San Bernar 
dino formed the idea of using the water of the Colorado to irrigate this 
waterless, treeless, lifeless million acres and make of it a fertile valley. 
He induced the state legislature to grant him California's interest in 
the desert and to help him push a bill through Congress to give him 
i ? 6oo square miles of the worthless land in return for its irrigation, but 
the Civil War made it impossible to pass the bill, and the project 

lapsed. 

Others occasionally considered the scheme, but Wozencraft was the 
only enthusiast, and nothing practical was done until 1892, when John 
C. Beatty commissioned C. R. Rockwood to make surveys for irri 
gating the desert by diverting the waters of the Colorado at Pot Holes, 
ii miles north of Yuma. A cousin, James H. Beatty of Canada, con 
tributed $30,000, and a total of $175,00 was raised in a stock-selling 
campaign, but when it was all spent, nothing had been accomplished, 
and Rockwood sued for his $3,500 salary, receiving the instruments 
and camp supplies for his claim. Colonel S. W. Ferguson of San Fran 
cisco secured an option on 20,000 acres of land adjoining the inter 
national boundary and a contract to buy 350,000 acres for 60 cents an 
acre across the line in Mexico. With Rockwood and Beatty he 
organized the California Development Company, a New Jersey cor 
poration with a capital of $1,250,000 and $350,000 in land scrip. They 
divided the stock, sold the land scrip at 10 cents on the dollar, and 
spent the money. Not a spade had been turned, and there were no 
assets when Ferguson and his friend L. M. Holt asked an engineer of 
standing to construct the necessary canal in return for one-quarter of 
tlie stock. 

This mm was George Chaffey, Canadian-born, an engineer of genius, 
aa organizer and a financier. Self-educated in his profession, he had 
learned shipbuilding as a boy in his father's plant at Kingston, Ontario, 
and TOS early given a navigator's license for the Great Lakes. He had 
fcqjit ships of his own before he came to California in 1882 and took up 
tlie study of irrigation at Riverside. Seventeen years before, when 
Qhaffey was new in California, Dr. Wozencraft had tried to interest 
Mm la the Colorado Besert irrigation project, but after he had visited 
the desert, Qhaffey decided it was a visionary and impractical scheme, 



SAN DIEGO 329 

one of his chief objections being that settlers would not live in a district 
where the temperature rose to 120 degrees. But this cold-blooded 
Canadian was to learn differently within a few years, and in the 
meantime he turned his attention to other projects for irrigating the 
more favored valleys of California. With his brother, William Benjamin 
Chaffey, he laid out and developed an irrigated tract near San Bernar 
dino, known as Etiwanda, and he distinguished himself by being the 
first engineer in the West to file on a mountain stream for electrical 
energy as well as for water. With power from this first hydro-electric 
project, he wired his ancient ranch-house, built of bricks brought on 
donkeys from San Francisco, to make it the first electrically lighted 
house west of the Rockies. On the peak of the roof he put up an arc- 
light as an advertisement for his colony, precursor of the ubiquitous 
electric sign; he built the first long-distance telephone in California, 
then the longest in the world, from his house to San Bernardino ; and 
he organized the Los Angeles Electric Company to take power to the 
city, making Los Angeles the first electrically lighted town in the 
country. 

When Etiwanda was sold and payments for the land ware trickling 
in, Chaffey organized a second colonization scheme, Ontario, at the 
foot of Old Baldy of the Sierra Madre Mountains, and he soon brought 
water to this parched tract of sage-brush, jack-rabbits, and coyotes. He 
shared the water-rights from mountain streams with the near-by town 
of Pomona, a place which was so dry that Barnum said he would not 
stop there with his circus because there was not enough water to give 
the elephant a drink. If dry, Pomona scorned the rival Ontario as even 
dryer and declared that nothing could ever be grown there. But Chaffey, 
not content with rights to half the surface water and all the electric 
power, f ollowed out his theory that the rivers of California run bottom- 
side up and drove a tunnel 3,000 feet long into a near-by canon bed, 
tapping a copious supply of underground water for his colony. And to 
confound his enemies at Pomona he built a fountain close by the rail 
road track, and every time a train went by, he had it cast a profligate 
jet of water high into the air as a symbol of the abundance of moisture 
his colony enjoyed. At Ontario he platted the land so that every 10- 
acre tract had a street-frontage, and he developed the idea of mutual 
water companies in which each acre of land carried with it a share of 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

stock in the water company, thus providing for irrigation without 
troublesome litigation over water-rights. He laid out magnificent tree- 
lined Euclid Avenue, built Chaffey Agricultural College, which after 
wards became the state-supported Chaffey Union High School and 
Junior College, and brought an excursion of special trains from Los 
Angeles to advertise his land. 

In i886 ? just before the Southern California boom began, Chaffey 
sold out his interests and went to Australia, where he laid out two great 
irrigation projects, Mildura and Renmark. Although various political 
and financial difficulties beset him, he lived to see these colonies most 
successful, but he did not profit from them as he deserved. When he 
returned to California 12 years later, almost penniless and discredited, 
he found Ontario suffering from drouth, and with his uncanny gift for 
discovering water, he brought in enough underground springs and seep 
ages to give the town an ample supply. He also purchased a tract of dry 
land for $1,600, sank artesian wells, and sold the abundant water which 
gushed forth for $75,000 a year. 

It was with this money that he thought of joining the California 
Development Company, but his first inspection of Rockwood's survey 
discouraged him, and he declined to enter the project. Chaffey's fear 
that people would not live in a hot country was gone forever, however, 
for the Murray Valley, scene of his work in Australia, was one of the 
hottest regions in the world inhabited by white men, yet the colonies 
planted there throve. But even after he had rejected Rockwood's 
scheme, the fascination of the vast project of irrigating the desert still 
lured him, and he finally decided to see if he could not make a better 
irrigation plan. With an Indian guide he plunged into the desert at 
Yrana, braving for three weeks the heat and wind and sand along the 
border, incidentally becoming deaf through the hardships he suffered, 
and discovered on the Mexican side ancient dry water-courses which 
could be utilized for bringing the Colorado River water to irrigate 
the dry lands of Southern California. 

Enthusiastic over his discovery of the new channel, in April, 1900, 
Chaffey contracted with the California Development Company to con 
struct a canal to divert 400,000 acre-feet of water a year. Rockwood's 
original estimate of the cost had been $1,000,000. Chaffey offered to do 
it at a cost not to exceed $150,000 and to raise the money himself, in 



SAN DIEGO 231 

return for which he was to have one-quarter of the stock, control for 
four years, and $60,000 to be paid later out of revenue. Unfortunately, 
he did not discover that the company was bankrupt and was about to 
lose its charter because of non-payment of taxes, that it did not con 
trol the land along the Mexican border necessary for the construction, 
and that it had sold all its land scrip, which would have to be redeemed 
at face value for water-rights just at the time when cash would be 
needed. He should have made sure of these things, but he was told the 
books were in New Jersey, and he assumed all was well. Since he was 
the only person who could handle the project, he might well have 
withdrawn when he discovered the true state of affairs and organized 
his own company. His son, Andrew M. Chaffey, frankly advised him 
not to undertake the scheme, but he said, "Let me do one more big 
thing before I die," and went ahead. Adhering to his original agree 
ment, he personally made the negotiations necessary to get new options 
on the land, organized, financed, and engineered the whole project, and 
12 months later he had completed the yo-mile canal, extending from 
Pilot Knob through Mexico and reentering California at the twin cities 
of Mexicali and Calexico, at one-tenth of the original estimate and one- 
third less than his contract price. 

Meanwhile, the magnitude of the project of reclaiming the desert 
had attracted national attention, and by the time the water was turned 
in, the Imperial Valley was alive with settlers, who came to take up 
the government land. In 1901 there was not a white resident in the 
Valley; by 1905 there were 14,000, distributed among seven towns, 
farming 120,000 acres irrigated by 780 miles of canals. George Chaffey 
had named the valley Imperial, had founded the twin border towns of 
Calexico and Mexicali, and had devised a variation of his mutual water- 
company scheme to provide the settlers with equitable water-rights. 
As the water entered Mexico, it was sold to a Mexican corporation, and 
as it came back into the United States, it was resold to the mutual 
water companies ; being the property of a foreign corporation, it was 
thus not subject to interference by state rate-making bodies. The Im 
perial Valley was a bonanza for the settlers, who bought the land from 
the Government for $1.25 an acre and paid from 75 cents to $20 an 
acre for the water-rights, thus coming into ownership of property 
worth $150 an acre. But it was not a bonanza for George Chaffey, who, 



332 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

facing loss of control of the company, in 1905 sold out his interest for 
securities which later netted him only $100,000. 

But the Imperial Valley, which had defied man for generations, was 
not yet entirely conquered. Three years after George Chaffey had 
severed his connection with the project, other engineers constructed an 
exceedingly risky canal around the diversion head-gate, and soon the 
whole Colorado River burst into the Valley. Within nine months the 
river had cut two channels 50 feet deep, 1,000 feet wide, and 43 miles 
long, and had carried into the Valley four times as much earth as was 
excavated for the Panama Canal. The dry Salton Sink became the 
Salton Sea, 40 miles of Southern Pacific track were covered with water, 
and it was only a question of time before the whole district would be 
flooded and all the great development irretrievably lost. How to dam a 
rushing river that was now 2,500 feet wide and 30 feet deep was a 
problem which baffled the engineers ; every attempt was a failure. 

In its extremity the California Development Company turned to 
E. H. Harriman, who now controlled the Southern Pacific, and he 
agreed to spend $200,000 to dam the river if the company should be put 
in his hands. This was done on June 20, 1905, and during July and 
August Harriman made two attempts to stop the river, but without 
result. Only one-third of the Colorado was now following its old chan 
nel; the remainder flooded into the Imperial Valley to the Salton Sea. 
The next sum of $250,000 was advanced by Harriman as he sat in his 
office directing railroad relief work amid the smoldering ruins of San 
Francisco after the earthquake and fire, and the dam constructed with 
this money was carried away like a match. President Roosevelt, peti 
tioned for help, said the Reclamation Service could not act as the cut 
was in Mexico ; and he asked Harriman to take the full responsibility, 
although that gentleman wired him that the Southern Pacific Com 
pany had already spent $2,000,000. Congress was adjourned, however, 
and no authority for the Government to act could be obtained, so 
Harrimaa gave the order to stop the river "at all costs." Harry T. Cory 
was put IB charge and in 52 days spent $1,600,000 dumping in nearly 
6/xx> carloads of rock and gravel and driving 1,200 piles; and on 
February 10, 1907, the break was closed, the river was flowing back in 
its old channel, and the Imperial Valley was saved. 

Meanwhile, George Chaffey had turned his attention to another irri- 



SAN DIEGO 333 

gation project, the East Whittier-La Habra Valley near Los Angeles. 
Here, by drilling wells in the dry bed of the San Gabriel River, he 
turned 12,000 arid acres into valuable citrus lands, completing this last 
of his great irrigation projects with the help of his son, Andrew M. 
Chaffey, who had become a financial power as president of the Cali 
fornia Bank in Los Angeles, where he introduced the Australian system 
of branch banking. Surely, George Chaffey had built himself imperish- 
ably into the civilization of Southern California. Four times he had 
made the desert blossom as the rose, once on the largest scale ever 
known to man. He had pioneered in irrigation, town-building, develop 
ment of hydro-electric power. His Ontario project had been reproduced 
by the Government as a model at the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Ex 
position. He had solved every problem of engineering, building, and 
financing an irrigated colony and had paved the way for the extensive 
work to be undertaken by the United States Reclamation Service. 
Ontario and Whittier are to-day beautiful and prosperous towns of 
15,000 people; the Imperial Valley tills half a million acres of land and 
sends out freight-cars by the tens of thousands loaded with cantaloups, 
lettuce, grape-fruit, oranges, grapes, alfalfa, dairy products, all pro 
duced in vast quantities in the districts that George Chaffey reclaimed 
from the desert. 

The completion of Boulder Dam will add several hundred thousand 
acres to the irrigated area of the Imperial Valley; and the residents in 
1933 voted to contract with the Government to spend $33,500,000 to 
build the ail-American Canal, keeping the waters of the Colorado en 
tirely within the United States on their way to the Imperial Valley a 
project which the great wealth of the district now makes economically 
feasible. Incidentally, when Los Angeles was completing its project to 
bring water from the Owens Valley, George Chaffey found himself 
opposed to the city, for in 1905 he had filed on streams there with the 
idea of developing hydro-electric power, an irrigation project, and an 
electric railroad from the Valley to Los Angeles. When the city took 
the matter to Washington, inducing Gifford Pinchot to extend the 
forest-reserve to cover the property, it tried to make capital of Chaf- 
f ey's alleged failure in Australia ; whereupon the Prime Minister, Alfred 
Deakin, wrote, "Mildura to-day has 4>oo people irrigating 11,000 
acres. I am convinced you would have made a great success if you had 



334 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

been permitted to carry out your plans without the senseless inter 
necine strife which compelled you to cease your control. Your courage, 
ability, resource and energy merited very different treatment than that 
which you received from the short-sighted people who proved to be 
their own worst enemies when they assailed you." 

Another irrigation scheme, on a tiny scale compared with the Im 
perial project but of considerable value, was that of William Ellsworth 
Smythe, who had been an editorial writer on the Omaha Bee, founder 
of the Irrigation Age, and leader of national irrigation congresses at 
Los Angeles and Denver. After trying out his theories at New Plym 
outh, Payette Valley, Idaho, he came to San Diego and organized 
"the Little Landers" at San Ysidro, propagating the doctrine that a 
family could live comfortably in San Diego County with true inde 
pendence on one acre, or at most two or three. 

But the development of the Imperial Valley at San Diego's back 
door was not as great an immediate advantage to the city as it should 
have been. For throughout its history the city had been virtually on a 
branch line of the railroad, and now it had no direct rail connection 
with the rich Imperial Valley. In 1906, however, John Diedrich Sprec- 
kels, resting after an illness and the shock of the San Francisco earth 
quake at his Coronado Beach Hotel, determined to give San Diego this 
vitally necessary railroad connection as well as its long dreamed-of 
direct railroad route to the East. After conferences with E. H. Harri- 
man, who shared the wish for a direct line to the East, he announced 
the incorporation of the San Diego and Arizona Railroad Company to 
build east through Mexico and the Imperial Valley to Yuma. On No 
vember 15, 1919, after numerous financial and engineering difficulties 
had been overcome, the golden spike was driven on the summit of 
Carriso Gorge, in a setting of unsurpassed scenic grandeur, and John 
D. Spreckels said, 

I was very much gratified to have the evidence of your approval of my 
efforts in the building of this road. Some of the speakers have given me 
credit which I don't think belongs to me. I was not the originator of 
this road, but it was the biggest railroad man in this country and that 
man was Mr. E. H. Harriman. He projected the road and selected me 
to carry out the work and to act as his agent and trustee. Things went 
along very nicely until the year of his death. He was furnishing the money 
and I was spending it. But the time came shortly thereafter when there 



SAN DIEGO 335 

was a change in the administration of the affairs of the Southern Pacific 
and I was informed that no more money was to be advanced for the 
building of the road. This was a staggering blow to me. It was tantamount 
to a knockout, but, gentlemen, let me tell you that before the count of 
ten arrived I realized what it meant and I said to the president of the 
road, "Why do you wish to discontinue or to withdraw?" And he said, 
"For financial reasons; money is tight and we have great expense to 
make up for the roads through Nevada." "Well," I said, "then let me do 
it." And from that moment on I did it, and continued the building with 
such funds as I could spare from my business and such funds as my 
brother aided me with.* 

Well might John Spreckels take pride in his accomplishment. The 
road had cost no less than $18,000,000, and construction had been 
marked by continuous reports of fresh engineering difficulties which 
resulted in enormous building costs. Spreckels had personally obtained 
from President Diaz the concession to build through Mexico, and for 
12 years he had fought for the road and kept faith with San Diego 
when many a less courageous man would have withdrawn. When the 
first train rolled into the Union Station and San Diego became at last 
the real terminus of a Pacific railroad, the name of John D. Spreckels 
was lifted high in the hearts of the people. At the celebration given 
in honor of the arrival of the railroad, Spreckels said, 

The San Diego and Arizona railway is now an accomplished fact. It 
is finished. It is behind us. Most of the difficulties that lay in our path 
are overcome. They are merely memories and I certainly need not tell 
you that I am mighty glad of it. What is to be done now rests more with 
you people here this evening than it does with me and the gentlemen 
associated with me in this railroad enterprise. The road is built. It is at 
your service. If it is to fulfill the purpose for which it was built the 
upbuilding of San Diego into one of the leading cities of the coast, with 
prosperity for the city and its people the completion of that purpose 
lies in the hands of the men and women who are here tonight and the 

rest of the people who have their homes in San Diego It has been 

my principal aim hi life for a number of years past to make of San Diego 
a city of the first class populous, prosperous and popular and I think 

I may reasonably claim that I have done my bit 1 have always had a 

profound belief in the future of San Diego, ever since the day I first came 
here many, many years ago. I have never lost faith in its future and my 

* H. Austen Adams, The Man John D. Spreckels (San Diego, Frye and Smith, 
1924). 



336 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

judgment has been backed by my brother for we have both believed 
that San Diego was a city of opportunity. Our climate, our harbor, and 
our back country, supported by Imperial Valley, one of the most remark 
able and prolific producers of nearly everything that can be grown on 
land with the aid of sunshine and water, must mean prosperity for San 
Diego. This new railroad opens up a wide field for enterprise in Imperial 
Valley, Arizona, New Mexico, and through the Middle West to the At 
lantic coast. Its benefits cannot be estimated at the present time, but those 
benefits will grow and year by year they will become greater and greater 
and San Diego will fulfill her destiny.* 

On many aspects of the city's life John D. Spreckels set his imprint. 
He reproduced an old Spanish mansion in Old Town, calling it "Ra- 
mona's Marriage Place," where visitors might visualize the sort of life 
described in Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and he gave an 
outdoor pipe-organ costing $100,000 to Balboa Park. On this occasion 
California's premier orator, the Honorable Sam Shortridge, later to be 
Senator, indulged in an ornate tribute to San Diego's first citizen, strik 
ing a high note in his opening words, "Within hearing of yonder ocean 
whose billows break on Coronado's sands, we come age with its 
memories and youth with its hopes to receive a precious and splendid 
gift." Spreckels permanently engaged an eminent organist to give 
free concerts, and when his brother Adolph erected in Lincoln Park, 
San Francisco, overlooking the Golden Gate, a magnificent replica of 
the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris, he gave it another pipe- 
organ, also valued at $100,000. His crowning contribution to San 
Diego was to make possible the Panama-California Exposition, giving 
it his hearty support along with the great outdoor organ, a check for 
$100,000, and another check for a like amount to help keep it open 
a second year. 

But, despite his benefactions, there were many who strenuously 
objected to the size and variety of his holdings and blamed all San 
Diego's troubles on the fact that it was a "one-man town." So strong 
did this feeling become that in 1923 John Spreckels gave a dinner at 
Coronado to which he invited 600 of the city's leaders for a heart-to- 
heart talk. On that memorable evening, which marked the beginning 
of a new civic spirit for San Diego, he said, 




SAN DIEGO IN 1870 
Courtesy of the San Diego-California Club. 




SAN DIEGO HARBOR AND BUSINESS SKY-LINE 

In the foreground the aircraft-carrier Saratoga. Courtesy of the San Diego- 
California Club. 




ROCKWOOD HEAD-GATE OF THE ALAMO CANAL 

Colorado River on the left. The Alamo Canal passes into Mexico about one 
mile downstream and reenters Imperial Valley about 60 miles to the west, serving 
500,000 acres in Imperial Valley and 200,000 acres in Mexico. Courtesy of the 
El Centre Chamber of Commerce. 




A CANTALOUPE RANCH IN THE IMPERIAL VALLEY 
This early sweet variety readies Eastern markets in early May. A normal season's 
shipments reach 18,000 carloads. Courtesy of the El Centro Chamber of Com- 



SAN DIEGO 337 

I had faith in San Diego. I still have. That is why I am still here. 
Faith! It may be able to move mountains, but, gentlemen, no amount of 
mere faith ever built a city. Only one thing can build a city cooperation. 
It is team-play alone that can put a city on the map and keep it there. 
Big cities require big men men big enough to forget personal differences 
and pull together without jealousies or suspicions or factional bickering. 
In other words, before you can turn a small town into a real city, you 
have got to shed the small town skin. 

Now, gentlemen, between ourselves, what is the matter with San Diego? 
Why is it not the metropolis and seaport that its geographical and other 
unique advantages entitle it to be? Why does San Diego always just miss 
the train somehow? I will tell you. In three words: Lack of cooperation. 
We have no team-play. The moment anybody appears with any proposi 
tion of a big constructive nature the small town undertakers get busy 
digging its grave. And if anyone dares to invest too heavily he is warned 
that San Diego objects to being a one-man town. Well, gentlemen, if being 
a one-man town is bad for the town, it's hell for the one man A one- 
man town! My God! If you only knew how often I have turned heaven 
and earth to induce men of large means to come to San Diego. For thirty 
years I have hoped and worked for men with big ideas, big ability and 
big capital to come and get into our big game down here. God knows we 
need them! Just see what brains and capital have done for Los Angeles. 
Why? Well, simply because Los Angeles business men see the need for 
whole-hearted cooperation; and San Diego business men do not. That is 
the story in a nutshell. They pull together; we indulge in a tug of war. 
... I have had my say. I have spoken frankly in the hope that from now 
on a larger and more genuine spirit of cooperation may prevail. I ask no 
favors. I ask only for cooperation. If the young, red-blooded, progressive 
business men of the city will only get together and stick together nothing 
will be too big to expect for San Diego.* 

That this meeting did result in a better cooperative spirit was soon 
evident : within a week the leaders of the city joined in a huge apprecia 
tion dinner for John D. Spreckels, and the spirit that was born there 
has continued to animate San Diego. 

So to-day San Diego stands proudly on its heights above the Silver 
Gate, its sunlit bay protected by the headlands of Point Loma and 
the Coronado peninsula, the Mexican mountains blue in the distance 

< a beautiful city and the most venerable on the Pacific Coast. Its 

downtown garden, Balboa Park, is lovely with the buildings remain 
ing from the Exposition of 1915, buildings in the Spanish Colonial 

*Ibid. 



338 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

style which combine simplicity of line with gorgeousness of carving 
and ornamentation, striking examples of "the most glorious tempera 
mental architectural expression to be found on the American conti 
nent." And this architecture and its ancient Spanish heritage give San 
Diego a charm which cannot be effaced by any number of go-getter 
business men or marred by any amount of industrial development. 
However much it may grow, San Diego will never be just another 
busy American town ; the soft, balmy air will fortunately prevent it, 
keep the spirit of manana alive, and make lotos-eaters of even the 
luncheon-club addicts. 



CHAPTER XIII 

PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 

IN the motion-picture, "The Covered Wagon," there is a scene 
in which the emigrants on the Oregon Trail are told of the gold 
that has just been discovered in California. When they hear this 
story of unlimited wealth to be had for the taking, many of the trav 
elers change their plans and head for the Sacramento. But a certain 
pig-headed contingent from Missouri refuses to be diverted by any 
such glittering lure of easy fortune. Their reply to the tempters is that 
they set out to drive their plows into Oregon soil and to Oregon they 
will go. Such stubborn citizens as these Missourians settled the 
Willamette (pronounced with the accent on the second syllable) Val 
ley, and their dogged determination, industry, thrift, and conservatism 
go far to explain the temper and substance of Oregon and of its chief 
city, Portland. 

From Missouri and the Middle West came many a farmer to make 
the black soil of Willamette and Tualatin valleys yield up their riches. 
And from New England came men of equal vigor and determination 
whose outlook was the sea rather than the plains shrewd Yankees, 
keen business men, sharp traders, endowed with the calm tenacity 
of the barnacle to found the city of Portland. Among the first seamen 
to enter the Oregon trade was Captain John H. Couch, who came from 
Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1840, at the behest of the old New 
England firm of Gushing and Company, to establish a salmon fishery 
on the Columbia. Encouraged to the enterprise by the advice of the 
Methodist missionary Jason Lee, the Cushings hoped to establish a 
profitable business, but the Indians proved to be such unreliable 
workers that the venture was abandoned. Captain Couch left his 
assistant at Oregon City, went to the Sandwich Islands, sold his vessel, 
and returned to Newburyport. But on his trip he had learned the 
needs and seen the possibilities of the Oregon trade, and in 1842 he 

339 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 34! 

returned to the Northwest with a stock of goods to open a store in 
Oregon City. 

By this time there was no question that somewhere near the mouth 
of the Columbia a port would be established to serve the empire 
drained by the river and its tributaries. The force of gravity deter 
mined this, and the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers were its 
visible signs. For the waters that fell in the far-distant Rockies 
found their way to the sea on the Oregon coast, and the traveler who 
wanted an easy route to the Pacific followed the Oregon Trail to the 
Willamette Valley. It was the easiest route for water and men, and 
some day it would be the easiest route for rails. The only question 
that puzzled the pioneers was the exact spot where the metropolis 
that was to benefit by this force of gravity was to be located. Astoria, 
founded by John Jacob Astor at the mouth of the river, was the first 
possibility, and there were numerous other available sites all along 
both sides of the Columbia for a hundred miles to the mouth of the 
Willamette. Near this point, on the north side of the Columbia, the 
Hudson's Bay Company had built its trading-post, Fort Vancouver; 
and a few miles up the Willamette, at the falls, was the pioneer settle 
ment of Oregon City, which had the double advantage of being the seat 
of the provisional government of Oregon Territory and of having an 
ample supply of water-power already being used to operate a grist- 
and a sawmill. 

A great port might be established at literally dozens of points along 
the river system, but Captain Couch determined that the best place 
was Portland, for he easily drove his sailing-vessel as far as what is 
now the foot of Washington Street, tied it up, and gave it as his 
opinion that any vessel that could pass over the bar at the mouth of 
the Columbia could reach that spot. This was perhaps the most impor 
tant single act in the founding of the city, for it persuaded the hun 
dreds of sea-captains who knew Couch that Portland was the place 
to drop anchor and discharge cargo, that this was the site of the future 
metropolis of the Columbia River basin. Captain Couch himself 
brought a cargo of goods from New York in a ship commanded by 
Captain George H. Flanders, and the two captains then went into 
business together and remained in Portland for the rest of their lives. 

The actual founding of the city occurred in 1843, when a young 



342 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Tennesseean, William Overton of Oregon City, stepped out of an 
Indian canoe on the west bank of the Willamette ten miles from 
where it joins the Columbia and determined to make the place his 
home. A few days later he invited a fellow-passenger in his canoe to 
step ashore and look at the site. The passenger was impressed; he 
noted the deep water and the fertile soil ; and ^when the penniless 
Overton offered to give him a half-interest in a square-mile town-site 
if he would pay the costs of surveying and filing on the land, the deal 
was quickly closed. Overton's newly acquired partner was Asa Law 
rence Lovejoy, native of Groton, Massachusetts, graduate of Amherst 
College, recent companion of the Congregational missionary Marcus 
Whitman on a long return journey to the Missouri by way of Santa 
Fe, a bold, hardy soul who had three times braved the dangers of the 
overland trail in less than two years. 

Before the two men could get their cabin built, however, Overton 
sold his interest for $50 to Francis W. Pettygrove and departed for 
Texas, where it was said he was hanged. Pettygrove was a New Eng- 
lander, a native of Calais, Maine, who had first come to Oregon by 
way of Honolulu to bring a stock of merchandise to Fort Vancouver 
for an Eastern firm. He had settled and engaged in the fur business 
at Oregon City, where he was the first American to build a warehouse 
and enter the grain trade. He and Lovejoy now owned the site of the 
new city, although there was only a provisional government to grant 
them a doubtful title, while Great Britain and the United States were 
still quarreling over the ownership of the Oregon country. But they 
blithely went ahead staking out lots and preparing for an early boom 
in real estate. Each wanted to name the town after the principal city 
of his home state, so they flipped a penny for the honor ; it came up 
once "heads" for Boston and twice "tails" for Portland. 

While the Tualatin and Willamette valleys were slowly filling with 
farmers and before the infant city had made much progress, Lovejoy 
sold out his interest to Benjamin Stark, and Pettygrove sold his to 
Daniel H. Lownsdale for $5,000 worth of leather, a small enough price 
to pay for a city, even if a somewhat better deal than the Indians 
made for the island of Manhattan. Lownsdale had also an adjoining 
land claim of his own, so he became the virtual proprietor of Portland, 
Oregon. Born in Kentucky and having lived in Indiana, Georgia, and 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 343 

Europe, Lownsdale had seen enough of the world to realize the advan 
tages of the site and also to know how to promote it. He gave away 
land in order to get it improved, sold lots at a nominal price to attract 
settlers, and offered inducements for the opening of business enter 
prises. To help him he enlisted another born realtor, that optimistic 
and energetic native of Maine, Stephen Coffin of Oregon City. As their 
legal adviser they retained William W. Chapman, who had come west 
on the first ship bringing gold-seekers to San Francisco. A Virginian 
by birth, Chapman had been the first Delegate to Congress from 
Iowa; he had been United States district attorney for Iowa and had 
furthered legislation out of which grew the Homestead Act. These 
three men owned the Portland Townsite Company and set Portland on 
the way to being a city. 

Portland's principal rivals were Oregon City, where John Mc- 
Loughlin, the former chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, had 
settled; Milwaukie, a few miles below; Linnton, farther down the 
Willamette towards the Columbia; and St. Helens on the Columbia. 
Lot Whitcomb at Milwaukie carried on the most vigorous warfare, 
operating a sawmill, selling the product to San Francisco, and making 
plenty of money. He added to Portland's discomfort by buying a 
ship's engine at San Francisco, hiring the nautical engineer Jacob 
Kamm to build a ship, and launching it on Christmas Day, 1850. When 
this vessel was put in service between Oregon City and Astoria, the 
citizens of the embryo metropolis were filled with dismay. And even 
worse opposition developed when the Pacific Mail Steamship Com 
pany abandoned its terminal at Astoria and built its docks up the 
river at St. Helens, almost at Portland's door. 

Now occurred one of those crucial events such as have determined 
the fate of many cities. Lownsdale and the rest of the Portlanders 
determined to fight. Although they were few in numbers and light in 
purse, they decided to compete with the powerful Pacific Mail by 
operating their own steamer to California. At their request the side- 
wheeler Gold Hunter came up from San Francisco the first ocean 
steamer to anchor at Portland. The owners wanted $60,000 for a con 
trolling interest in the vessel, and although this was a large figure 
for the struggling city to consider, the citizens decided to buy it. So 
the necessary money was raised in Portland's first community cam- 



344 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

paign, and the town forcibly established itself as the northern terminus 
of the California steamship route. The Pacific Mail, however, had no 
intention of permitting such high-handed domination of the maritime 
trade ; it secretly bought out some of the stockholders, took the Gold 
Hunter off the run, mortgaged the vessel, sent her to South America, 
and sold her for a trifle. But even if the Portlanders lost their money, 
they established their city, for they had made it plain that Portland 
was the logical place for a terminal port; farmers were bringing 
their produce to the city and refusing to go to St. Helens, and in 
1851 the Pacific Mail capitulated and made Portland its terminus. 
Once the battle with the steamship company was won, the enterpris 
ing owners of Portland made sure of their victory by building dirt 
and plank roads and establishing ferry and river-steamboat services. 
And these radiating lines of transportation settled once and for all 
the site of the metropolis of the Columbia. 

From the many private interests operating steamships and sailing- 
vessels on the Oregon rivers there soon emerged three powerful figures 
who were to do more than any others in centering Western transporta 
tion in Portland and contributing to the growth and importance of the 
city. These men, known as "the Triumvirate," were Captain John C. 
Ainsworth, Simeon G. Reed, and Robert R. Thompson. The doughty 
Captain Ainsworth was a native of Ohio, having been born at Spring- 
boro on June 6, 1822. At seven he lost his father, and in his early 
teens he began to make his own living on Mississippi River steamboats. 
He learned the art of navigation and the geography of the river so 
as to become a pilot, and finally he was made master of a steamer 
plying from St. Louis to the north. On this boat Samuel L. Clemens 
was his pilot at the time he conceived his nom de plume of "Mark 
Twain/' and in later years he presented the Captain with a massive 
gold watch as a memento of their early association. When news of 
the gold-rush to California reached him, Captain Ainsworth went west 
with William C. Ralston, who was to become the leading banker of 
San Francisco, and their friendship persisted to the end of their lives. 
Indeed, it may be said to have been responsible for the starting of 
the Bank of California. After Ainsworth went on to Oregon and 
became captain of the steamer Lot Whitcomb in 1850, he asked 
Ralston for a loan of $50,000 which was quickly granted. When the 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 345 

latter's partner, Kelly, returned from a trip to New York and looked 
over the books, he observed the unsecured loan and demanded that 
it be immediately recalled. Much against Ralston's wishes, a letter to 
this effect was sent to Ainsworth ; but as he had already cleaned up 
$100,000 on his deal, the money was returned before the letter reached 
him. The incident so disgusted Ralston, however, that he quit his 
partner and organized the Bank of California. 

When Ainsworth first arrived in Oregon, he was satisfied for a 
time with command of the Lot Whit comb; but later he added to his 
steamboat interests until he and his associates controlled the system 
that was the key to Northwest transportation. His first lieutenant, 
Simeon G. Reed, was born at East Abingdon, Massachusetts, on April 
23, 1830, and there he worked in a shoe-factory for $12 a week. He 
later went to Quincy, where he failed in the grain business but suc 
ceeded in marrying the wealthiest and most beautiful girl of the town, 
Amanda Wood. In 1851 he came to San Francisco by way of Panama, 
and the next fall he pushed on to Portland, where he became a clerk 
in the mercantile house of W. S. Ladd and Company. In 1859 he 
became a partner of William Sargent Ladd's brother, John Wesley 
Ladd, under the style of "Ladd, Reed and Company, wholesale dealers 
in liquor and groceries," and a few years later he formed a partnership 
with W. S. Ladd to buy land and operate farm-property. In 1858 
Reed bought an interest in the river-steamers Belle, Senorita, and 
Multnomah, and this marked his entry into the field of transportation 
which was afterwards his major interest. 

But transportation on the Columbia was a complicated business 
in which many conflicting interests were engaged. Up the river 160 
miles from the mouth the five-mile stretch of the Cascades stopped 
the steamers, and freight and passengers had to be unloaded and 
transported around the obstruction on a portage. Boats could then 
proceed to the Dalles, 60 miles farther, where they were again stopped 
by 12 miles of rapids and Celilo Falls, necessitating another portage. 
While the lower part of the river was gradually coming into the control 
of Ainsworth and Reed, the part above the Dalles was completely 
monopolized by R. R. Thompson. A native of Ohio, he had come west 
as a government Indian agent; later he had built sailing-vessels to 
carry freight and passengers above the Dalles, using Indians for much 



346 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of the labor. From Celilo to Fort Walla Walla he carried freight in 
bateaux operated by Indians for $100 a ton, but when the commandant 
of the Fort suggested that he build a steamboat, he followed the 
advice. With this steamer he made three round trips a week, loaded 
with freight at $80 a ton, and enabled passengers to go from Walla 
Walla to Portland in 30 hours. As Captain Ainsworth clearly saw, 
the control of river transportation required an alliance with Thompson 
and also the ownership of the portages; so he began dickering with 
the various interests controlling rival river-steamers and resolved 
to obtain the right of way through the narrow pass of the Cascades 
and the portage there on the Oregon side, a horse railway owned by 
D. F. Bradford and his brother. These gentlemen cheerfully charged 
$20 a ton for carrying freight over their six-mile portage while the 
steamers received the same amount for carrying it all the rest of the 
way between Portland and the Dalles. The portage above the Dalles, 
leading to that part of the river where Thompson operated, was owned 
by Orlando Humason and J. S. Ruckle, who hauled the freight by 
team and likewise exacted a heavy charge. Thus by the time any 
goods reached points on the upper river, they had been handled by 
three steamers and two portages, each of which exacted its toll. To 
combine all these in one unified system of transportation was the pur 
pose of John C. Ainsworth. 

After much negotiation the owners of the various boats operating 
below the Cascades, between the Cascades and the Dalles, and above 
the Dalles were drawn into one group in which Ainsworth, Reed, and 
Thompson were the leading figures, and this was organized in Wash 
ington Territory in 1862 as the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. 
It was modestly capitalized at $172,500, and certainly this was con 
servative enough, for the company in later years spent $2,000,000 on 
improving its property, distributed $2,500,000 in dividends, and never 
levied a stock assessment. 

From the outset good luck followed Ainsworth and his associates. 
At about the time the company was organized, rich placer gold-mines 
were discovered in Idaho, eastern Washington Territory, and Mon 
tana, and there was a rush of prospectors up the Columbia River 
to these points. All the steamers were crowded, people vied with each 
other to get passage, and at times the whole length of the portages 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 347 

was lined with freight that could not be handled. At this time the 
company strengthened its position by buying the portage above the 
Dalles and spending $100,000 on wagons and teams in an effort to 
expedite the forwarding of freight to the mines. Ainsworth then went 
to San Francisco and purchased at a bargain a lot of 20 miles of rail 
road iron, and work was at once begun on a railroad to supplant the 
portage wagon-road. At the Cascades the Bradfords, who owned the 
portage on the Washington side, had become alarmed at the greater 
proportion of business that was going to the owners of the portage 
on the Oregon side, Messrs. Ruckle and Humason. Ainsworth there 
fore was able to induce them to permit him to build a railroad on the 
Washington side, and once this project was begun, the owners on the 
Oregon side succumbed and sold their portage to the company for 
$155,000. 

The monopoly was now complete. From Portland to the far-inland 
points reached by the Columbia and the Snake the Oregon Steam 
Navigation Company was in control. The company was reorganized in 
the State of Oregon with a capital of $2,000,000, October 18, 1862, 
and Ainsworth, Reed, Thompson, and the Ladds secretly organized a 
pool to acquire the stock of the other interests. It was rumored that 
the control was going to California men, panicky stockholders threw 
their shares on the market, and soon the pool owned all the stock. 
The capital was then increased to $5,000,000, and the stock was listed 
on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Now began such an era of prosperity as few water-transportation 
concerns have ever enjoyed. The interior mines were developing so 
rapidly and settlers were coming to the agricultural lands in such 
numbers that the company w^s unable to handle the business offered. 
Although night and day crews were operated on the portages, the 
freight piled up there, and in Portland drays stood in line for days 
and nights at a time to get a chance to deliver cargo to the steamers. 
Drivers sometimes paid a $20 gold-piece in exchange for a place at 
the head of the line. And the company was said to have paid for a 
new boat from the receipts of a single trip. The triumvirate increased 
their profits by completely throttling competition and charging all 
the traffic would bear. A set of stringent regulations, signed by Vice- 
President Reed, proclaimed that if a shipper shipped goods to any 



348 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

point on the river and transferred them to the boats of any other com 
pany for further shipment, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company 
should be entitled to the full freight-rate to the final destination. 
Furthermore, if goods were delivered to the company at any point by 
steamers owned by others, the company should be entitled to payment 
for carriage from the original shipping-point. This was monopoly with 
a vengeance, and to it was added the further burden of an ingenious 
scheme of charges which assumed 40 cubic feet to be a ton, no matter 
what the actual weight might be. To calculate the weight of a wagon, 
its length was measured from the rear wheel to the end of the tongue ; 
then the tongue was turned up at right angles, and the height was 
measured from wheel-base to tip of tongue. These dimensions served 
to determine the freight-charges ; no scales were needed, and after the 
measurements were made, the tongue was detached and put under the 
wagon-bed to save space. At the rate of $40 for each 40 cubic feet, 
or so-called ton, from Portland to Lewiston, Idaho, the cost to shippers 
was 10 cents per ton per mile, about ten times the rate charged on 
the Missouri. And often the article measuring a ton would weigh only 
200 pounds, so that the rate was sometimes really a dollar per mile. 
It is recorded that once when an employee was puzzled as to how to 
measure a cannon small in bulk but heavy in weight so as to get 
the usual high price per ton, the problem was solved by hitching a 
mule to it and measuring the ensemble. Stories were told of a con 
signment of shovels on which the river freight to Lewiston was a 
dollar apiece, of a dozen brooms on which the charge to Hood River 
was a dollar; and old-timers recall the merchant who, when he was 
asked why a single darning-needle cost the large sum of 25 cents, 
replied, "But, madam, you forget the freight!" 

In all transactions of the Navigation Company the responsibility 
of thinking through the details and of making final decisions lay with 
Captain Ainsworth. Reed was a sportsman who spent most of his 
time with his horses and in travel. Thompson paid no attention to 
detail, but Ms counsel was wise and far-sighted. At a meeting he would 
say nothing, but after thinking things over a few days, during which 
he might spend most of his time playing pool, a game at which he 
was an adept, he would tell Captain Ainsworth his opinion of what 
was to be done and offer Ms advice; and Ainsworth said that advice 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 349 

was never wrong. The triumvirate worked so smoothly and built up 
such a complete monopoly of transportation on the Columbia that it 
began to attract the attention of the railroads building to the Pacific 
Coast; and the insiders, in turn, began to wonder how they could 
continue to enjoy such enormous profits in the face of possible rail 
competition. 

In 1871 the Northern Pacific, which was rapidly building westward, 
began to negotiate for an interest in the Oregon Steam Navigation 
Company, and Ainsworth and Thompson went to New York to confer 
with the railroad officials. They finally sold a three-quarter interest 
for $1,500,000, one-half in Northern Pacific bonds, with the provision 
that the old owners continue in the management. But with the failure 
of Jay Cooke and Company the railroad bonds dropped to 10 cents 
on the dollar, and it looked as if the Oregonians had sold their com 
pany for nothing. Luck was with them again, however, for when Jay 
Cooke's assets were thrown on the market, Eastern investors were 
not familiar with the value of the Oregon company's stock, and so 
Ainsworth, Reed, and Thompson bought it all back at about half the 
price they had sold for. 

By this time Portland was a flourishing city of about 10,000 people, 
who, as Samuel Bowles of the Springfield Republican observed in Ms 
Our New West, 

keep Sunday with as much strictness almost as Puritanic New England 
does, which can be said of no other population this side of the Rocky 
Mountains at least. Whether this fact has anything to do with it or not, 
real estate we found to be very high in Portland four hundred dollars 
a front foot for best lots one hundred feet deep on the main business 

street, without the buildings The Oregonians lack many advantages 

of their neighbors below; their agriculture is less varied and rampant, 
but it is more sure; mining has not poured such intoxicating wealth into 
their laps; they need, as well, a more thorough farming and a more varied 
industry; they -need, also, as well, intelligent patient labor and larger 
capital; but they have builded what they have got more slowly and 
more wisely than the Calif ornians; they have less severe reaction from 
hot and unhealthy growth to encounter, less to unlearn; and they seem 
sure, not of organizing the first state on the Pacific coast, indeed, but 
of a steadily prosperous, healthy and moral one, they are in the way 
to be the New England of the Pacific Coast. 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Already a New England aristocracy had grown up, the leaders of 
which were the Ladds, the Corbetts, and a few other families which are 
still names to conjure with in Portland. Henry W. Corbett, born in 
Westboro, Massachusetts, in 1827, started his career with a total for 
tune of $21 as a clerk in a wholesale dry-goods house in New York. 
When the California gold-rush started, he saw that there would be a 
demand for Oregon products and that Portland would be a good trading- 
point, so he determined to go there. After seven years of faithful work 
his employers had such confidence in him that they sold him a large 
stock of goods which he brought to Portland around Cape Horn. He 
opened a store in 1851, acting as proprietor, clerk, and bookkeeper, 
and in one year cleared $20,000 in this town of 400 people. He went 
into the hardware business and with Henry Failing, of New York, built 
the firm of Corbett, Failing and Company into the largest of its kind on 
the Coast. Later these two partners bought the First National Bank 
and made it one of the great financial powers of the West. William S. 
Ladd was another who came to Portland to make his fortune selling 
merchandise. Born in Holland, Vermont, in 1826, he early became 
railroad freight-agent in his home town, but the success of his friend 
Charles Elliott Tilton in San Francisco drew him to the West. Arriving 
in Portland in 1852, he conducted a small store until he sold his stock, 
and then he traveled through the country buying chickens, eggs, and 
farm produce. At Portland again, he worked for a Mr. Godkin, who had 
opened a store, and within a year had made $1,000. He then went back 
to San Francisco, formed a partnership with Tilton to buy out Godkin, 
and brought back $60,000 in gold coin in his stateroom. The mercantile 
business was most prosperous, and he made his brother, John Wesley 
Ladd, his partner. In 1859 Ladd and Tilton opened the first bank in 
Portland and became the financial bulwark of the Oregon country. 

Certainly, Portland in those days had a Yankee outlook on life. The 
annual New England Dinner was the leading social event of the year, 
and the Unitarian and Congregational churches early came into promi 
nence, along with the Episcopal church, where the young men vied with 
each other to see which could furnish the most magnificent upholstery 
for his pew. Amusements were simple, but they included many dances, 
some of which were enlivened by the music of the military band from 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 351 

Fort Vancouver. After the dance it was customary to eat ice-cream 
made by a confectioner who cut ice from the river and stored it and 
sold his product at 25 cents a dish. Church fairs and sociables were 
among the most popular events, and everyone turned out to attend 
them. There were boating parties up the river with picnics at Mil- 
waukie. The ladies of the town gave afternoon luncheons with such 
substantial fare as oysters, chops, chicken, and hot biscuits, and the 
bachelors, a group of whom lived in the old gas-works, entertained 
with chafing-dish suppers. It was all very gay, especially when some 
social leader set the town agog with an evening of daring originality, as 
did Mrs. Corbett when she gave a "wishbone party." 

It was all very like a small edition of Boston, and even at this day 
one can reconstruct the life of the time by strolling among the deserted 
old buildings with their ornate fronts that still stand in the river dis 
trict. All the observers of the time commented on the New England 
flavor of the town, somewhat in the spirit of a writer for the Boston 
Journal who said, "To New England folks, Oregon has peculiar attrac 
tions. It is more New England than any of the states on the coast. The 

scenery is like that along the Penobscot The people are mainly 

from New England. The social status is Eastern. The industry, the 
thrift, the briskness of business all remind one of Maine." 

The owners of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company had gobbled 
up the river traffic of the Northwest, but other men were looking long 
ingly at the railroad routes and hoping to monopolize the approach to 
Oregon from California and the southeast, for Oregon products found 
a profitable market in California, apples having been known to sell for 
as much as $4 apiece at the mines. The traffic between Portland and 
San Francisco was handled by steamers, except for such hardy souls as 
responded to the advertisements of Henry W. Corhett's stage line, a 
handbill for which read, 

Overland mail route to Oregon 
Through in Six Days to Portland 
Avoid risk of ocean travel 
Most beautiful and attractive as well 
As bold grand and picturesque scenery 
Stages stop one night at 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 



Ureka and Jacksonville for passengers to rest 

Lay over at any point and continue journey within one month 

July 20, 1866 H. W. CORBETT & CO. 

PROPRIETORS, OREGON STAGE LINES. 



In 1863 the California legislature granted privileges to a group of 
seventy men who proposed to make surveys for a railroad to Oregon. 
Among them was an engineer, Simon G. Elliott, who had become in 
terested in railroads while listening to Theodore Judah expounding his 
plans for a line over the high Sierras. Elliott began the survey to con 
nect southern Oregon with San Francisco, and on June 29, 1865, the 
California and Oregon Railroad Company was chartered at Sacra 
mento to build along the route surveyed and obtain grants of land. In 
the same year a sister company, the Oregon and California Railroad, 
was organized in Oregon to carry the road to Portland and obtain land- 
grants. Through the influence of these companies a bill was passed in 
Congress granting twenty sections of land per mile along the track of 
the railroad that should be designated to receive it by the Oregon 
legislature. 

Meanwhile, to combat the Californians Oregon interests had organ 
ized the Oregon Central Railroad. This also was to connect Portland 
with southern Oregon and California. Before the incorporation papers 
were finally completed, Joseph Gaston, the secretary, took them to the 
secretary of state, who penciled on them the date, October 6, 1866. 
Four days later the Oregon legislature designated the Oregon Central 
as the road that was to receive the land-grant. Final, papers of incor 
poration, however, were not filed by Gaston until November 21, and 
meanwhile Elliott and his California group had filed papers incor 
porating another Oregon Central Railroad in order to beat Gaston. 
Tbis second company was known as the "East Side Company" because 
it proposed to enter Portland on that side of the river and follow the 
Elliott route through the Willamette Valley, while Gaston's company 
was toKrwn as the "West Side Company" since its route went south 
closer to tlie coast and entered Portland west of the Willamette. Both 
companies broke ground in Portland in the spring of 1868, and the 
East Side Company wrote to the Secretary of the Interior to obtain the 

tod granted to the Oregon Central Railroad, only to learn that Gaston 
had already filed acceptance of it for his Oregon Central. Immediately 




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PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 353 

an extraordinary legal battle began to determine which of the two 
companies of the same name was the actual Oregon Central Railroad 
at the time the legislature of Oregon assigned the land. 

The Gaston West Side Company had as incorporators Ainsworth, 
Reed, Thompson, and other prominent Portlanders, a much more im 
posing array of names than those of the East Side Company. But the 
East Side Company had some shrewd financial wanglers, and it pro 
ceeded to get work started while the West Siders were still marking 
time. Elliott presented to his board a contract on behalf of "A. J. 
Cook" to build 150 miles of road for $5,200,000 in 7 per cent mortgage 
bonds plus $2,000,000 in preferred stock, and when it was accepted, 
"A. J. Cook" obligingly assigned the contract to Elliott for $i. An 
other contract for 210 miles more was made and assigned to Elliott, 
Parts of these contracts were assigned to others for about $20,000. 
Some stock was disposed of for about $8 7 ooo, bonds were issued, and 
with the cash received Elliott managed to create the appearance of 
great activity, although he actually had no substantial financial sup 
port. At this critical period he succeeded in interesting a new-comer in 
the building of the railroad, and from that time forward the East Side 
Oregon Central became the gorgeous, scintillating sky-rocket of Oregon 
finance. The new-comer was none other than the powerful and glam 
orous "Little Napoleon" of the stage-coach business, Ben Holladay, 
who, in September, 1868, took over the contracts, receiving twenty-four 
fortieths for himself, ten fortieths for his partner, C. Temple Emmett, 
and allowing Elliott the six fortieths remaining. 

It was appropriate that Holladay should take over the East Side road, 
for immediately upon his arrival in the city he had bought a large plot 
of land east of the river and declared that the city of the future would 
be on that side, that the grass would soon be growing on Front Street, 
and that he would make a rat-hole out of west-side Portland. He thus 
antagonized in a single breath the rich men of the city, all of whom 
owned west-side property, and their antagonism never abated. But 
Holladay did not care. He had the dash and bravado of the Plains. He 
deferred to no man. He was forceful, bold, unscrupulous, domineering, 
pompous, lavish, scheming, and, his enemies said, dishonest and im 
moral. He drove his Oregon railway project with all the breakneck 
speed, dust, and thunder of a runaway stage-coach, while staid Port- 



354 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

land clasped her mittened hands and looked on in horrified fascination. 

The man who threw consternation into Oregon business and society 
was born in Kentucky in 1819, soon after which his parents moved to 
Weston, Missouri. As a boy he clerked in a small drug-store where the 
officers of Fort Leavenworth congregated and exchanged stories of life 
on the Western plains. Fascinated by their accounts, Ben left his pills 
and bottles to work for Sublette and Bogy on their St. Louis-Santa Fe 
wagon-train. On his first trip the young drug-clerk noted what articles 
made the largest profit, and on his return he made up a train of his 
own fourteen wagons, sixty mules, and twenty saddle horses carrying 
bacon and farm-produce bought from the Weston farmers on credit. 
On his second venture, with a train nearly twice as long, he carried 270 
chests of tea, which he had bought in New York for 28 cents a pound 
and shipped by sea and river to Fort Leavenworth. He sold this for 
$1.50 a pound in New Mexico, and all his other transactions were on a 
similar scale of profit. In order to get over the bad roads quickly he 
had his tires widened from four inches to ten, and this enabled him to 
make three trips to Santa Fe in one season, thus breaking all records. 
When the California gold-rush began, Ben showed his shrewdness by 
making up two wagon-trains loaded with chests of tea and coffee. He 
rode ahead to Salt Lake City and sold the tea and coffee at high prices, 
for the Mormon Saints had difficulty in obtaining these cheering stimu 
lants. Then he bought all the butter and bacon he could get, and when 
the train arrived, he emptied the lead-lined tea-chests, filled them with 
butter, carried them to Sacramento, and sold his cargo for a dollar a 
pound. He also brought out wagonloads of whisky which he sold for 
$5 a gallon. He charged Indians a beaver skin for two drinks, and the 
driver would measure out the liquor in a half-pint cup coated a quarter 
of an inch deep with buffalo grease. He would hold two fingers of his 
left hand in the cup while the Indian drank, and by this saving device 
of fingers and tallow undoubtedly did high service for the cause of 
temperance and the purse of Ben Holladay. 

In Sacramento, Ben met Pratt Harbin, who had 700 tons of wild 
oats, and to him Holladay entrusted a herd of cattle he had purchased 
en route and driven out to be fattened. Then he went on to San Fran 
cisco and contracted with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company to 
furnish their ships with American beef at an enormous price. Since 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 355 

Spanish beef was as tough as leather, the company was glad to buy, for 
it charged passengers the high rate of $500 from San Francisco to New 
York via Panama. With plenty of money in his pocket Ben paid 
$75,000 for the Confidence Mine in Tuolumne County, and it produced 
large sums for him for 12 years. 

In 1862 Holladay advanced money to the Leavenworth stage-coach 
owners, Russell, Majors and Waddell, at a time when they were in 
financial difficulties; thus he came into possession of their overland 
stage lines between Leavenworth, Denver and Salt Lake City. His 
enemies said that the firm had advanced him 600,000 worth of securi 
ties to hold for the partners while it went into bankruptcy, and that 
when the proceedings were over, he refused to return the property. By 
1864 Holladay was operating lines to Salt Lake, Idaho, Montana, and 
the mining regions around Denver. He had a monopoly on the overland 
business from the Missouri River to Salt Lake, charging Wells, Fargo 
and the other express agencies what he wished because he controlled 
the only route between Denver and Atchison. But this was threatened 
when D. A. Butterfield opened his competing Overland Despatch to 
Denver, Now that there was only a 6oo-mile gap between Denver and 
Salt Lake, the express companies sent Holladay a letter threatening to 
put in a line between these points if he would not lower his rates. But 
Holladay had anticipated this and already had a careful inventory of 
the rival stage line. On the day the express companies issued their 
ultimatum threatening to "stock the gap," Holladay had dinner with 
the president of the Park Bank of New York, who owned the compet 
ing stage line, and completed a deal to buy his interests. Then he said 
to his secretary, "Answer those express companies and tell them to 
stock and be damned." 

By 1866 Holladay controlled nearly 5,000 miles of stage line, with as 
complex an organization as a modern railroad. His line was divided 
into three divisions: from Atchison to Denver, from Denver to Salt 
Lake City, and from Salt Lake City to Placerville, California. In his 
Overland Mail Leroy Hafen has this to say of him: * 

In 1866 a contemporary described him as "a man apparently about 
forty-five, tall and thin, of large grasp and quick perception, of indiffer- 

* Reprinted by permission of the publishers, the Arthur H. Clark Company, from 
their Overland Matt. 



356 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

ent health but indomitable will, fiery and irascible when crossed and a 
Westerner all through. Apparently he carried his vast business very 
jauntily, without much thought or care, but he crossed the continent twice 
each year, from end to end of his stage routes and saw for himself how 
matters were getting on." 

Henry Villard described him as "a genuine specimen of the successful 
Western pioneer of former days, illiterate, coarse, pretentious, boastful, 
false, and cunning." Mark Twain tells a story with reference to Holladay. 
A youth who had crossed to California in the overland stage was sub 
sequently traveling in the Holy Land with an elderly pilgrim who thus 
tried to impress upon the young man the greatness of Moses, the guide, 
soldier, poet, lawyer of Ancient Israel. 

"Jack, from this spot where we stand, to Egypt, stretches a fearful 
desert three hundred miles in extent and across that desert that won 
derful man brought the children of Israel! guiding them with unfailing 
sagacity for forty years over the sandy desolation and among the obstruct 
ing rocks and hills, and landed them at last, safe and sound, within sight 
of this very spot. It was a wonderful, wonderful thing to do, Jack. 
Think of it!" 

"Forty years? Only three hundred miles? Hump! Ben Holladay would 
have fetched them through in thirty-six hours." 

In 1866, anticipating the coming of the Pacific railroad, he sold out 
Ms lines advantageously to Wells, Fargo and Company. And very 
shortly thereafter the golden profits stopped. For the Union Pacific 
reached Cheyenne, the Kansas Pacific reached Hays City, 571 miles 
west of St. Louis, and the Central' Pacific had reached Cisco, 94 miles 
east of Sacramento. Meanwhile, Holladay had bought four old ships 
wMch the Pacific Mail had tied up in the harbor of Benicia near his 
meat-butchering establishment. Fortunately for Holladay the gold ex 
citement on the Fraser River in Canada broke out almost immediately ; 
the result was the making of another fortune from his steamers. When 
the Fraser River rush died down, Holladay plied his ships between 
San Francisco, Portland, and San Diego. His luck continued strong 
when he mortgaged his ships to buy an interest in the Ophir Mine in 
Nevada, which came to be the greatest silver-producer of the Corn- 
stock Lock. He built an estate, "Qphir Farm," in Westchester County, 
New York, paid Frederick Law Olmstead $10,000 to landscape the 
grounds, and there his wife and daughters lived in lavish style, spend 
ing, it is said, $7,000 a month on entertaining. Such was the career of 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 357 

the man who burst into Portland with the grand scheme of buying the 
East Side railroad and extending it to California. 

In the legal battle between the two contesting roads, Gaston's West 
Side Company gained a victory when the courts ruled that it was 
organized prior to the East Side Company and had sole right to the 
name, Oregon Central Railroad. Simeon S. Reed and Company was 
organized to build the Gaston railroad, and work began with a rush. 
But Holladay decided that the legislature of 1868 should be prevailed 
upon to give his company a chance of getting the rich prize of the 
Oregon land-grant upon which Gaston had already filed, and he set out 
to bring this about in characteristic fashion. Royal entertainment was 
provided for the legislators, and it was said that money was freely used 
otherwise to influence their decision. Holladay and a band of his hench 
men kept open house in Salem, entertaining in such grandeur as the 
Oregon legislators had never seen and seeking to influence the press of 
the state as well as the lawmakers. He also entertained certain chosen 
spirits on one of his river-boats turned into a yacht, on which, it was 
said, the decks were damp with champagne. 

Torn between the claims of the two rival roads and the advantages 
offered by each to different counties, and overwhelmed by the person 
ality and blandishments of Ben Holladay, the legislature was in a 
turmoil. The Senate decided that the West Side Company was not in 
existence when it was granted the land. The House said that if the 
West Side Company did not own it, no other company could own it. 
And they finally agreed to redesignate the road to receive the grant and 
to give it to the first company completing 20 miles of road by July 
i, 1880. Under Holladay's influence Congress passed a bill extending 
time for filing acceptance of the land-grant act and provided that 
the grant should go to the line that first completed 20 miles of road by 
December 25, 1869. Holladay completed the 20 miles from Portland to 
Parrott Creek on December 24, 1869, and thus became the recipient of 
the grant. Holladay then told the East-Side directors he would stop 
construction unless they turned over all the stock to him, and they 
gave him every share but one. In 1870 he offered to return this stock if 
the directors would pay him the $1,000,000 due him on his building 
contract. This, of course, they could not do. So he made another 
proposition, in the name of the Oregon and California Railroad, a com* 



THEY BUILT THE WEST 

pany newly organized by him, to purchase the entire property and pay 
for it by assuming the debt of $1,000,000 owing to Ben Holladay. This 
proposition being accepted, Ben was in complete control of the Oregon 
Central through his legally organized company. He immediately issued 
$10,500,000 worth of bonds and sold them at 70 per cent, mostly in 
Germany. 

Meanwhile, another scheme to give Oregon a transcontinental rail 
road connection had been fostered by B. J. Pengra, surveyor-general of 
the state, who proposed a line from Portland south through the Klam- 
ath Lake country to Winnemucca, Nevada, there to connect with the 
Central Pacific. This plan had the support of Collis P. Huntington, 
who saw in it an opportunity to make the Oregon line one branch of 
his system. In December, 1867, he wrote Colton from New York, 
"C. E. Tilton here tonight. He is of the firm of Ladd and Tilton, Port 
land, Or. He is a good man and I have told him we would like to have 
him and a few of his friends come in and build the Pengra line. . . . 
[Gould] feels that he is being menaced by the extension of the S. P. 
although I tell him that it is in the U. P. as well as the C. P. interest 
that we take care of that line." When the bill giving this road a land- 
grant was brought up in Congress in 1869, Washington was a beehive 
of lobbyists representing conflicting interests : Huntington had his Cen 
tral Pacific, the Northern Pacific was strongly represented, Simeon G. 
Reed was there for the Oregon Central, and John H. Mitchell pulled 
all the wires he could for the East Side road. In the turmoil the Pengra 
bill was amended so as to require that his road connect with Holladay's 
in the Rogue River valley. Since this would give Holladay complete 
control of the Portland business, Huntington promptly withdrew, and 
the project was lost. 

Pengra still clung to his hope of a Winnemucca connection, however, 
and in 1875 the newly organized Portland Board of Trade obtained a 
promise from Huntington to investigate the proposed route again, in 
return for which favor the Board promised to use its influence to 
obtain whatever grants and subsidies he might require. Judge of their 
feelings when he replied that he thought a $25,000,000 subsidy from 
the State of Oregon would be justified by the advantages to be gained 
from the project. His specific terms later provided that the company 
be exempt from all taxes until such time as its net earnings should 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 359 

exceed 10 per cent per annum on the capital stock surely a joke to 
anyone familiar with the financial wizardry of Huntington ; Portland 
was to provide $1,000,000 outright and the State of Oregon $210,000 a 
year; freight-rates were not to be subject to state control, but they 
were not to be in excess of those charged between San Francisco and 
the East plus the charge for rail or steamship carriage between Port 
land and San Francisco. In other words, Portland was to be sold down 
the river to San Francisco with Huntington in the role of Simon Legree. 
The Portlanders tried to prune down Huntington's demands and in 
sisted on equality of rates with San Francisco. Various conferences 
were held, but they came to naught, and in 1876 the Board of Trade 
withdrew. 

When it appeared that the land-grant was slipping from the grasp of 
the West Side railroad, Simeon G. Reed and Company stopped work 
on construction and had its contract canceled. Since Huntington had 
lost interest in any connection of the West Side road with his Winne- 
mucca project, and there was no question that Holladay had the funds 
to complete his line ahead of the other and thus secure the land-grant, 
the West Siders decided to capitulate. When Holladay first offered to 
buy the West Side road, Ainsworth opposed the sale, saying that once he 
had obtained access to Portland from the south on both sides of the 
Willamette, Holladay's next move would be to build a line up the 
Columbia River and compete with the Oregon Steam Navigation Com 
pany. But William S. Ladd was in favor of selling out to Holladay. 
"Holladay will find this a very different proposition from building his 
road from Oregon City to Salem across prairies where the grading is 
purely nominal," he said. "The only way to break such a man is to let 
him do just what he wants in the present instance and to load him 
down with more unproductive property than he has capital enough to 
carry." The sale was concluded next day at two, and at five the trium 
phant Holladay and his family sailed for San Francisco. 

The sale of the bonds for the Oregon Central and the Oregon and 
California railroads had been negotiated in Germany and England by 
Holladay's friend Milton S. Latham, president of the London and San 
Francisco Bank. Fearing that he would lose his job when there was a 
partial default on the bonds, Latham paid the interest as due to the 
English investors but paid the Germans nothing. When the Germans 



360 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

sent a representative to San Francisco, Latham pacified him ; but when 
the second default occurred, after the panic of 1873, they sent a 
shrewder man to discover what was the matter, and this step marked 
the entry into American railroad affairs of Henry Villard, born Heinrich 
Gustav Hilgard, who became the king-pin of transportation in the 
Northwest and whose meteoric flight across the financial skies was the 
sensation of two continents. 

Henry Villard was born in Speyer, Germany, in 1835. After he had 
graduated from the Gymnasium in 1853, he came to America and stayed 
with an uncle on a farm at Belleville, Illinois. There he amused himself 
by writing for the local German paper, and he continued writing when 
he studied law at Peoria and in Chicago. Becoming proficient in Eng 
lish, he reported the political debates between Lincoln and Douglas in 
1858; then he covered the Indiana and Illinois legislatures for the 
Cincinnati Commercial, and in 1859, with Horace Greeley and Albert 
D. Richardson, he investigated the gold excitement in the Pike's Peak 
region. After attending the Republican National Convention that nomi 
nated Lincoln for President in 1860, he was sent to Springfield to write 
despatches concerning Lincoln until the President-elect left for Wash 
ington. Lincoln invited Villard to accompany the Presidential party to 
New York, and this led to his establishment in Washington as political 
correspondent. At the outbreak of the Civil War he went into the field 
as correspondent for the New York Herald and covered various im 
portant campaigns, being on the flagship Ironsides at the attack on 
Charleston. Having given up active field service because of illness, 
Villard in 1864 organized the first news-agency to compete with the 
Associated Press. Then he joined Grant's Army of the Potomac, and 
Ms despatches were printed in six newspapers, including the Springfield 
Republican. In 1865 he became Washington correspondent for the 
Chicago Tribune, and early the following year he married the only 
daughter of William Lloyd Garrison. Going abroad for the Tribune, 
Villard visited Paris and his native Germany, and on his return he 
teeatee secretary of the American Social Science Association. It was 
this connection that caused him to become interested in the study of 
pubic finance and railroad securities, and he formed a plan to induce 
Gorman bankers to join him in trying to establish a mortgage bank 
SB America. 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 361 

Convalescing in Germany from an apoplectic stroke, he was visited 
by a gentleman who had bought the 7 per cent bonds of the Oregon 
and California Railroad Company and wanted his advice. When the 
data from the Frankfort Protective Committee were obtained, Villard 
gave an unfavorable opinion. Nearly $11,000,000 worth of the bonds 
had been sold abroad at 70, and the holders had discovered that instead 
of 375 miles of road being built south of Portland, there was only 200 
miles. Since only one-third of the interest was being earned, the bond 
holders decided to assert their rights, and in 1874 Villard was given the 
task of negotiating with Ben Holladay. 

Villard met Holladay in New York and was not favorably im 
pressed. He described him as a genuine specimen of the more uncouth 
of the old-time Western pioneers illiterate, coarse, pretentious, boast 
ful, false, and cunning. What a contrast there must have been between 
the calm, highly cultured German-American newspaper man and the 
blustering Western master of the Plains! After their interview Villard 
went west and was soon investigating Latham's delinquencies, although 
that gentleman never knew he was in San Francisco. He then went on 
to Roseburg, Oregon, and secreted himself there, getting information 
from his friend Paul Shulze of Portland, while Holladay's agents 
looked for him in vain'. By the time he reached Portland, Villard had 
enough information to make Holladay decidedly uncomfortable. 
Latham was lavishing the investors' money on an unproductive narrow- 
gage road from Sausalito to Bolinas, across the Golden Gate from San 
Francisco, and Holladay had spent $300,000 of unaccounted funds in 
politics and the most riotous kind of living. 

But as to the Oregon railroad prospects Villard was enthusiastic. He 
recommended that a bureau of immigration be founded to encourage 
settlers to come to the fertile Willamette Valley and the substantial 
city of Portland, and the bond-owners approved his plan and made him 
the head of the organization. He made a contract with Holladay under 
which it was agreed that all receipts of the railroad companies should 
be turned over to a financial agent who should pay the bills, and that 
Holladay should have no part in the sale of railroad lands so long as 
any part of the principal or interest on the bonds remained unpaid. But 
it was soon evident that Holladay had no intention of abiding by this 
agreement. His management was so indigerent and incompetent that 



362 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Villard decided he must be finally removed. He accordingly retained 
the powerful law firm of Mitchell and Dolph to prosecute Holladay, 
and these moves so frightened Ben that he entered into an agreement 
whereby he surrendered control of both the East Side and West Side 
railroads to the German bondholders and also gave them the only 
paying properties he owned the five steamships of the Oregon Steam 
ship Company, some of whose ships plied to Sitka, Honolulu, and 
Mexico. 

So pleased were the German bondholders with Villard's conduct of 
their affairs that they made him president of both the East Side and 
West Side railroads and the Oregon Steamship Company, and he set up 
a temporary residence in Portland. In addition to his Oregon duties at 
this time he was called into the reorganization of another railroad prop 
erty in which the Germans had invested. This was the Kansas Pacific, 
and the business involved took Villard back to Denver for the first 
time since he had investigated the Pike's Peak mining excitement 17 
years before. What a transformation he saw in the plain and mountain 
country! Civilization had come with the railroad. Denver had changed 
from a mining village to a busy city. The great herds of buffalo had 
vanished, even their whitened bones having been gathered off the 
prairies and shipped east to be used in manufacturing. This view of 
what a railroad could do in promoting the prosperity of a frontier terri 
tory must have encouraged Villard as to the prospects of his Oregon 
venture. His connection with the Kansas Pacific also involved him in a 
financial duel with the most crafty of railroad promoters, and the result 
added to his experience as a financier. 

At this time the celebrated railroad manipulator Jay Gould had a 
large interest in the Union Pacific, and with its president, Sidney Dillon, 
he began to try to get control of the Kansas Pacific in order to con 
solidate the two competing roads. Gould dickered with the representa 
tives of the stockholders and with Villard as representative of the 
bondholders. There were three issues of mortgage bonds, and Villard 
insisted that they should be redeemed at par, although they were then 
selling at around 50 and 30. The stockholders listened to Gould and 
seemed willing to accept his terms, but Villard refused. To break down 
his resistance Gould abused him in the press and tried to get him re 
moved as receiver of the Kansas Pacific. Although under the terms of 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 363 

the act founding the Kansas Pacific it was to have a share of the trans 
continental freight, which was to be routed over its subsidiary the Den 
ver Pacific between Cheyenne and Denver, the Union Pacific had never 
permitted traffic to be prorated. This depressed the Kansas Pacific 
earnings and the price of its securities. Now Gould threatened to reduce 
its income further by building a line paralleling the Denver Pacific 
from Denver to Cheyenne and taking away the mainstay of the Kansas 
Pacific traffic, the Denver business. Villard refused to be bluffed, 
however, and in the end Gould accepted his terms, taking the bonds 
at par, the only concession being the reduction on the accrued interest 
of the third-mortgage bonds from 7 per cent to 6 per cent. Gould had 
bought Kansas Pacific at 12 when Union Pacific was selling at 60 
and 70. After the consolidation of the two roads, with the Kansas 
Pacific as the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific, the stock of 
both roads went above par, and the bonds followed, one issue with 
six years' accrued interest going to 140. Gould cleaned up more than 
$10,000,000 on the deal. The negotiations carried on by Villard, who 
successfully protected his interests against the most unscrupulous 
manipulator of the day, greatly enhanced his reputation. 

Villard now began to lay his plans for making Portland not only 
the focus of local lines, but a great western terminal-point for the rail 
roads of the country. For he saw that the force of gravity made the 
Columbia River the easiest and cheapest route to tide-water. In plan 
ning to connect the properties of which he was president with a 
transcontinental outlet, his first thought was a line from Portland 
to Salt Lake along the route originally surveyed by General Dodge to 
form a part of the Union Pacific. The advantages of this route had 
been consistently touted in recent years by W. W. Chapman of Port 
land, who organized the Portland, Salt Lake and South Pass Rail 
road and once almost succeeded in getting Congress to deprive the 
Northern Pacific of much of its land-grant and give it to his com 
pany. In 1879 Villard interested Jay Gould in the project and entered 
into an agreement whereby he and Gould were to form a construction 
company to build the road from Ogden to Portland. But control of 
entry to Portland from the east would not be possible without control 
of that grand monopoly of the Columbia, the Oregon Steam Naviga 
tion Company; and so they decided that, as the first step in the 



364 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

plan, Villard must try to buy it. Imagine with what licking of chops 
Captain Ainsworth welcomed into his office this callow young East 
erner who had the temerity to aspire to the control of Oregon's perfect 
monopoly ! With Reed and Thompson he made a careful inventory of 
the property, which, it is said, totaled $2,500,000. Whereupon Thomp 
son, who was known as one of the best poker-players in the United 
States, said, "Double it! It's just as easy to get five million as two 
and a half!" So the price was set at $5,000,000, they all took a 
trip over the line, and Villard accepted the valuation as fair. Five 
million dollars was a bagatelle in the schemes of national transporta 
tion that were taking shape in his mind. 

By this time the German bondholders of the steamship line to Cali 
fornia had become disgusted at their lack of profits and desired to 
sell the property. Villard had quietly organized a New York syndicate 
to buy it. He now proposed to Ainsworth and Reed that they should 
all combine to form a new company which should take over both the 
river and ocean lines and build a railroad from the Cascades on the 
Columbia to Walla Walla, Washington, so as to control completely 
the Columbia River valley. This sounded well, but Ainsworth and 
Reed undoubtedly thought that the $100,000 they had exacted from 
Villard for an option would be forfeited and that he would be unable 
to redeem his pledge. Their agreement provided that they would sell 
40,320 shares of their Oregon Steam Navigation Company stock, which 
was to be purchased at par, half in cash, 20 per cent in the bonds 
of the new company, and 30 per cent in its stock. The new corpora 
tion, to be known as the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, 
was to have capital stock of $6,000,000 and 6 per cent bonds of the 
same amount. Villard was to be allotted $1,000,000 stock and $1,200,000 
bonds to buy the old Holladay Oregon Steamship Company, which 
owned the line to San Francisco, and to build an additional ocean 
steamer; he was to have $1,800,000 in stock and $1,500,000 in bonds 
to build the railroad to Walla Walla, and $2,000,000 in stock and 
$2,500,000 in bonds to raise the cash to pay the Ainsworth group. 

Thinking that he would never be able to raise the large sum re 
quired, Ainsworth and Reed bade Villard good-by at the end of May, 
1879. -fo New York he presented the proposition to the Union Pacific, 
as represented by Gould, and was surprised to receive a cool note 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 365 

saying that he declined to participate. This withdrawal of Gould has 
been variously interpreted, but it was probably due to Huntington, 
who wanted no new transcontinental road built to parallel the Central 
Pacific and who probably threatened to make reprisals on the Union 
Pacific should Gould further this scheme. Villard then turned to his 
own financial friends, asking them to subscribe for the bonds at 90 
with a bonus of 70 per cent in stock, and within ten days he was 
able to telegraph Ainsworth to deliver the Oregon Steam Navigation 
Company stock in New York and receive cash. After paying for 
this stock there was enough money left to build in 1880 the new 
ocean steamer Columbia, which was the first to be equipped with 
electric lights, and the railroad to Walla Walla. Villard then went to 
Europe for a vacation, and when he returned in November, the stock 
he had given as a bonus was selling at 95. This brilliant coup added 
to his reputation at home and abroad. 

As Villard pushed the construction of the Oregon Railway and 
Navigation Company tracks eastward to meet the Oregon Short Line, 
with which it connected in 1880 at Huntington, he began to fear that 
the Northern Pacific would menace his concern by building down 
the opposite bank of the Columbia. And he saw that his Oregon lines 
must fight the northern road as a competitor on the vast checker 
board of farm and mining and timber country of the Northwest. 
After much maneuvering he concluded in 1880 a traffic agreement 
by which the Northern Pacific was to occupy and develop the country 
north of the Snake River while the Oregon Railway and Navigation 
Company was to have the territory to the south. The Northern Pacific 
was to run its trains into Portland over the Oregon company's tracks, 
and the Oregon Improvement Company, a subsidiary organized by 
Villard to go into the land, coal, and transportation business and 
to hold the Oregon-California railroad, was to buy 300,000 acres of 
Northern Pacific lands in the Palouse country. Villard also offered 
to form a syndicate to provide funds to complete the Northern Pacific, 
but this was refused. 

Villard had always regarded the Northern Pacific as a weak rival 
which would some day fall into his hands, but he changed his opinion 
when the road negotiated a loan of $40,000,000 and proceeded to bufld 
rapidly westward. He must now do one of three things, buy control 



366 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of the Northern Pacific, sell out to the Northern Pacific, or sell out 
to the Union Pacific. Sidney Dillon was urging the latter course and 
showing the advantage of a through line from Portland to Ogden. 
One of Villard's directors, William Endicott, Jr., of Boston, wrote 
him: 

Our true policy, as I look at it, is, instead of gobbling up the Northern 
Pacific, to be in a good condition to be gobbled up. When we are at Baker 
City our road will be a very attractive object to either of two suitors, and 
I am persuaded we can sell out to one of them on very satisfactory terms. 
The Union Pacific being much the stronger, I should prefer to cultivate an 
intimacy with it. As the Central Pacific has control of the Southern, it 
will be important for the Union Pacific to have another outlet on the 
Pacific and the Oregon business will enable them to pay us a good price. 

But despite the opportunity to make money by selling his road, 
Villard determined on the more fascinating and dangerous scheme of 
acquiring control of the Northern Pacific. He secretly bought all the 
stock he could on his own account and then sent out a circular to 
fifty men asking for subscriptions to an investment fund of $8,000,000, 
the purpose of which was not disclosed. The mystery of the request 
coupled with Villard's reputation as a financier brought instantaneous 
response; bankers vied with one another in making subscriptions, 
and despite the stringency of the times the money for his "blind 
pool" was immediately forthcoming. A month later, having purchased 
all the Northern Pacific stock needed, he announced the incorpora 
tion of the Oregon and Transcontinental Company, whose purpose 
was to control both the Northern Pacific and the Oregon Railway 
and Navigation Company. It was one of the first of the holding com 
panies which in later years became so numerous. Twelve millions 
additional was subscribed to the new concern, President Frederick 
Billings of the Northern Pacific resigned to permit Villard to assume 
control, and the new company aided the Northern Pacific in complet 
ing its transcontinental line. This triumph of Villard meant that Port 
land would be the main beneficiary of the Northern Pacific, since 
he had no intention of ruining his Oregon properties by permitting 
the railroad to build over the Cascade Range and carry its traffic 
directly to Puget Sound. 

At this development Portland rejoiced, for despite her control of 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 367 

the only water-grade route from the Inland Empire to the sea, she 
needed help to overcome some of her natural disadvantages. A hun 
dred miles inland from the ocean, the port of Portland suffered by 
comparison with the broad, deep inlet of Puget Sound. There was 
a wild, tempestuous bar at the mouth of the Columbia with a natural 
depth of only 20 feet ; the channel to Portland was only to feet deep 
and was obstructed by several islands and a particularly dangerous 
bar below Portland called "the Hog's Back"; and the seasonal varia 
tion in the height of the Willamette at Portland was as much as 30 
feet, making dock construction difficult. The route was so dangerous 
and the cost of loading and unloading so much greater than at Puget 
Sound that six English shipmasters wrote to the Liverpool Mercury in 
1 88 1 stating that "the exorbitant prices charged at this port surpass 
any that have ever come before our notice. The danger connected with 
the bay, the pilotage and the steam expense on the river are such 
that they literally swallow all the profits." And sometimes shipping 
was completely interrupted when the river was frozen over, as on 
the occasion in December, 1880, when Villard's lieutenant, Thomas 
Oakes, wrote to him; * 

The weather here has been very cold during the past three or four days. 
Navigation of the Columbia above the Willamette was suspended on 
Thursday and on the Willamette yesterday. This embargo on the com 
merce of Portland is not flattering to the enterprise of her people If 

the Northern Pacific people were smart they would build a line from 
East Portland to Kalama [the point to which the Northern Pacific had 
extended southward from Tacomaj and take the grain trade during the 
winter to Puget Sound, and this, in my opinion, would be followed by the 
diversion of a considerable part of that trade in other seasons of the 

year There has been a lamentable lack of enterprise here. A large 

number of persons have made a great deal of money and live in fine 
houses, but they have shown so little public spirit, it is not difficult to 
guess their money has been made almost exclusively in trade without com 
petition, and that with the infusion of new blood they will give way to 
another class. 

As yet, Oregon was not noted for civic improvement. And even as 
late as 1890 Rudyard Kipling in his American Notes described his 

* James Elaine Hedges, Henry Vittard and the Railways of the Northwest (New- 
Haven, Yale University Press, 1905). 



368 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

entry into Portland, then a city of 50,000 souls, over a plank road that 
would have been a disgrace to an Irish village. He wrot^ of the 
pleasant countryside of the Willamette Valley dotted with small town 
ships, and roads full of farmers in their town wagons, with "bunches 
of tow-haired boggle-eyed urchins sitffhg in the hay behind/' and said 
that the Oregon men generally looked like loafers although the women 
were well dressed. 

Villard was now building the Oregon Railway and Navigation Com 
pany line from Portland up the Columbia, extending the Oregon and 
California from Portland to California, and completing the transcon 
tinental Northern Pacific. He next organized a $3,000,000 terminal 
company to build a tlepot in Portland, a bridge across the Willamette, 
and docks and machine-shops. And since Portland had no good hotel, 
he purchased* a site and had plans prepared for what afterwards be 
came the Portland. He had caused the Union Pacific to build from 
Ogden to Baker when he started to extend the Oregon Railroad and 
Navigation Company to that point, and so he was able to promise 
Portland not only one transcontinental railroad but two. The road 
also connected with General Palmer's Denver and Rio Grande Western, 
which was completed in 1884. In 1883 Villard crowned his largesse 
to Oregon by giving $50,000 to the State University at Eugene, which 
promptly named a hall in his honor. 

But all this expansion was not without its risks, and Villard was 
beginning to get beyond his depth. Faced with financial difficulties by 
reason of the surpassed estimates of the cost of the Northern Pacific, 
he buried the work forward so that the main line could be com 
pleted as quickly as possible. To the driving of the last spike, near 
Garrison, Montana, he invited the entire diplomatic corps, prominent 
German and English bankers, governors of states, and members of 
Congress. And in the late afternoon of September 8, 1883, the job 
was done. It has been said that the spike was driven home by Villard 
after his baby daughter had touched it with her fingers, but it was 
actually driven by H. C. Davis, general utility man in the traffic 
department, in a scene of general disorder, and instead of being of 
gold it was of ordinary steel. The road had actually been completed 
for traffic on August 22, and a locomotive puffed across the spot 
wlbere the gap had been, while citizens of Missoula and Helena looked 




"WOODING-UP" A COLUMBIA RIVER STEAMER 

The West Shore, 1886. 




THE FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL TRAIN ON THE NORTHERN PACIFIC 

This gala train, bearing Henry Villard and his guest notables to the driving of the 
last spike at Gold Creek, Montana, in 1883, proceeded after the ceremony to Portland. 
Courtesy of the Northern Pacific Railway. 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 369 

on. But the track over which the trains moved was a detour, and 
a space of 2,737 feet was left in the main-line track so that the guests 
four trainloads from the East and one from the West could see 
the last rails laid. Among those watching were General Grant, James 
Bryce, the British Ambassador, Sitting Bull, and two thousand Crow 
Indians in war-paint and feathers. 

Villard had also completed the extension of the Northern Pacific 
Tacoma line from Kalama to Portland ; he had bought out the "Ore- 
gonian," a Scotch narrow-gage railroad which threatened to complete 
a rival line from Portland to California; he had fought the Utah 
and Northern extensions of the Union Pacific in Montana and made 
favorable trackage agreements with this line; and he had faced 
the unpleasant situation of a 14,000,000 rise over the engineers' 
estimates in the cost of building the Northern Pacific. He had also 
paid high dividends on the Northern Pacific securities, the first being 
a cumulative dividend of n%o per cent on the preferred stock, al 
though the road's earnings did not justify this, and it was said that 
every department of the railroad was extravagantly, if not dishonestly, 
run by the employees. 

Under such conditions it is not surprising that the financial struc 
ture of Villard's enterprises became top-heavy. Moreover, the driving 
of the last spike did not bring the prosperity to the Northern Pacific 
that he had anticipated. Instead, revenues fell off when materials for 
construction were no longer being freighted. The spike-driving ex 
cursion had served to dampen the spirits of the American bankers, 
who were frightened by the road's vast expanse of uninhabited and 
seemingly worthless land, and they refused to make further invest 
ments. Nevertheless, the German bankers who had been Villard's 
guests at the spike-driving had been sufficiently impressed so that $20,- 
000,000 of second-mortgage bonds were sold to the Deutsche Bank. 
The issuance of these bonds, however, depressed the price of Northern 
Pacific stock, and to add to Villard's difficulties the Oregon and 
^Transcontinental Company was staggering under a load of stocks that 
It had purchased in his other companies. It expected to pay for these 
itfth another issue of its own stock, but the value of the securities 
St/had issued fell so far that this was impossible. As the financial con- 
;iidon of his companies became steadily worse, Villard saw that he 



37O THEY BUILT THE WEST 

could not save his fortune, and in December, 1883, he asked a group 
of his friends to advise with him on his financial plight. After ex 
amining the books they declared him to be insolvent. They then formed 
a syndicate to take over his Oregon companies, and he turned over 
to them all his cash and securities. The Boston Transcript said that 
the reason for his downfall was that he had a blind following and 
did his work in the dark, that he had paid from $5,000,000 to $10,- 
000,000 in commissions on his loans, that the $300,000,000 capital of 
the Oregon and Transcontinental was too large for the meager terri 
tories served, and that he had unnecessarily increased the indebted 
ness of that company and the Oregon Improvement Company, his 
real-estate holding company, organized in 1879. After the crash Villard 
resigned from all his companies except the Oregon and California 
Railroad and went to Europe to recover from the shock. 

Villard's schemes lapsed for a while, and the stone foundation-walls 
of his Portland Hotel stood untouched for years before anyone had 
courage enough to finish the building. But Portland and Oregon had 
gained much from his control of Northwestern transportation. He_ 
had established the city as the hub of railway and steamboat traffic, 
he had made large investments and improvements, and he had brought 
thousands of settlers to the state and to the vast Inland Empire 
drained by the Columbia. In New York his agents met the European 
immigrants and converted their attention to the Northwest ; in Boston 
they encouraged the owners of worn-out New England farms to 
emigrate to Oregon; at Topeka and Omaha they directed the faint 
hearted on to the Northwest and diverted those who had started for 
California. In Liverpool, in Germany, Scotland, Wales, and Scandi 
navian countries glowing literature about the Northwest was distrib 
uted, and in the Portland offices there were European employees who 
could speak to the new-comers in their own tongue. It was this in 
defatigable industry and widespread organization that explained what 
the San Francisco Chronicle called the "strange fondness of immi 
grants for the wet slopes of the Cascade Mountains and the solitary 
banks of the great Columbia." 

By tibis time Portland was the acknowledged center of transporta 
tion, business, and banking in the Northwest, although there were not 
lacking vivacious spirits in rival towns who might have added an 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 371 

adjective and called It "the dead center." For the conservatism of 
Portland bankers and business men was so pronounced that they 
earned the unappreciative sobriquet of "mossbacks." Even that jour 
nalistic rock of ages the Oregonian was shaken from its accustomed 
aplomb on April 21, 1887, when it declared editorially that Portland's 
leading citizens were afraid of the advent of new wealth or new energy 
that might injure their business and displace them fron^ their thrones. 
Said the Oregonian, 

There are men of wealth in Portland who not only refuse to take the 
lead themselves in undertakings that would push on the industrial and 
commercial development of this city and the country that surrounds it, 
but, what is far more culpable, they systematically discourage every 
proposition of men -from abroad to do so.... Men come from the east 
to Portland looking for opportunity to make investments. They would 
establish cable roads in the city or construct suburban railways or build 
bridges or erect lumber or flour mills. ... Or, they would place here re 
serves of capital, to be used in the development of the resources and indus 
tries of the country. . . . When the inquirer asks about this thing he is 
told that "it will not pay" or about that thing that "there is nothing in 
it." He is assured that there is money enough here now for all legitimate 
investments; that the banks of 'Portland are in fact full of money, and 
that if there was anything in these matters . . . they would have under 
taken them long ago 

The class of larger merchants . . . discourage investments in productive 
industry here because they are handling at a profit the products of the 
industry of the Eastern States or California. So they join the banker . . . 
and run through the old gamut of all that chronic pessimism can suggest 
till the newcomer, almost believing he has reached the place over whose 
portals Dante's terrible line is written "Who enters here leaves hope 
behind," starts for his hotel, pays his bill and sets off to find a place 
where the people have some faith in their country and in themselves, 
and don't talk habitually in sepulchral and, hopeless tones 

It is an unfortunate thing for a*city when, before it has really made 
itself master of its situation, it acquires a feeling of serene confidence 
and security, taking its character from a congeries of wealthy and con 
servative citizens whose faces are towards the past rather than towards 
the future. Portland herein demonstrates how wealth becomes obstructive 
rather than helpful. 

One of the most distressing features of the Portland scene was the 
Columbia River bar, and Portlanders tried to reassure themselves 
about this by repeating over and over that it did not exist, or at most 



37 2 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

was greatly exaggerated. But those who calmly considered the matter 
admitted that something must be done. From the outset Villard had 
seen the necessity of improving the bar and deepening the channel to 
Portland ; and Huntington too had remarked that if the Winnemucca 
road was built, he would spend a million dollars on river-improvement. 
In 1881 a sea-captain told the newly appointed committee on river 
improvement of the Portland Board of Trade that they had to con 
sider whether it was cheaper to pay freight to Puget Sound or main 
tain dredging operations on the Columbia, and the Oregonian began 
a campaign to improve the bar and open the river, declaring that "the 
loss which the people of Portland have suffered with patience not 

above reproach aggregates many millions of dollars This matter is 

not more important to Portland than to other sections of the state. The 
farmer who produces wheat is the loser by increased cost of shipping, 
not the Portland shipper, who trims his sails to suit the breeze." 

Roused by all these warnings, the Oregonians began a consistent 
effort to deepen the bar and the channel, and as a result millions of 
dollars were subsequently spent on this work by the United States 
Government. Consequently, by the time the Northern Pacific had 
built its line directly to Tacoma over the Cascades, shipping condi 
tions were so much better at Portland that the city did not feel the 
new competition so disastrously as had been expected. Now more than 
ever, however, Oregon needed its own railroad connection with the 
East which would fight the Puget Sound route above and the Cali 
fornia route below. And this was achieved in 1887, when the Union 
Pacific leased the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's con 
nection through its Oregon Short Line to Ogden, guaranteeing the 6 
per cent interest on the bonds for 99 years. 

In order to protect the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company 
and keep the Northern Pacific from infringing on it, the Oregon and 
Transcontinental Company now tried to increase its holdings of 
Northern Pacific stock. Under the presidency of Elijah Smith this 
holding company of Villard's purchased 60,000 more shares, and in 
1887, faced with difficulty in renewing its loans, the burden of this 
purchase was so heavy that it appeared to be on the verge of collapse. 
In its emergency the company turned to Henry Villard, who by this 
time had recovered his poise if not his fortune and had returned to 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 373 

America as agent of the Deutsche Bank. He had acquired some capital 
through the sale to Whitelaw Reid of his house on Madison Avenue 
in New York and was ready to recoup his fortune. To help the 
Oregon and Transcontinental Company and its bankers, Chase and 
Higginson, out of a tight place, he purchased $5,000,000 worth of the 
company's bonds. In return for this assistance he received the man 
agement of this company, as well as of the Oregon Railway and 
Navigation Company, and sufficient proxies to elect his own board 
of directors on the Northern Pacific. Thus, in a few years after the 
loss of his fortune Villard was unexpectedly returned to control of 
his former properties. 

But his interests were not now wholly with Portland. The Northern 
Pacific had completed its line over the Cascades to tide-water at 
Tacoma, both the Northern Pacific and the Oregon Railway and 
Navigation Company were building extensions into the Inland Em 
pire, and the business of this vast territory, once exclusively the 
tributary of Portland, was being divided between that city and Puget 
Sound. In order to keep the rival roads from wasting funds in com 
petitive building and to protect the interests of both, Villard sought 
to arrange a new agreement for a division of territory and business. 
Villard, Billings, and August Belmont considered the matter for the 
Northern Pacific and arranged the terms of a joint lease whereby the 
Northern Pacific would bear equally with the Union Pacific the guar 
antee of the 6 per cent dividend which the Union Pacific had made on 
the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company stock. The Northern 
Pacific was to build branches north of Snake River, tie Oregon Com 
pany south, and the Oregon Company was to have the right to pur 
chase the independent Hunt lines which were gridironing the wheat 
district around the Snake River in Washington. And tariffs were to be 
arranged so as to permit freight from points in the Inland Empire 
north of the Snake River to reach the sea at either Portland or Tacoma. 

Opposition to this lease immediately developed. The Walla Walla- 
Pendleton region wanted no longer to be the sole property of the 
Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, which had continuously 
exploited it. As an example of its extortionary rates it was pointed 
out that 500 fire-brick from England to Walla Walla incurred a greater 
freight-charge on the 245 miles from Portland to Walla WaHa than 



374 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

from Liverpool to Portland, the Oregon Company charging &/?. cents 
per brick. And Portland, instead of rejoicing to have the Northern 
Pacific and its Tacoma line confined to the north of the Snake River, 
now objected to giving up the business from the Cceur d'Alene, Idaho, 
mines. Moreover, if the rates were to be the same to Portland and 
Puget Sound, Portland demanded that the Oregon Railway and Navi 
gation Company be required to conduct lighterage and pilot service 
between the mouth of the Columbia and the city at a cost no greater 
than the charges for similar service from the entrance of Puget Sound 
to Tacoma. Portland also demanded that a railroad be built to tap 
the country north of the Snake and insisted that the Northern Pacific 
be kept out of the south. In order to satisfy all parties endless nego 
tiations developed between Villard and President Charles Francis 
Adams of the Union Pacific. The situation was further complicated in 
that the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company was under the 
presidency of Elijah Smith, who was hostile to the Northern Pacific, 
its president, Charles B. Wright, and its port, Tacoma. 

Believing that Portland's demands should be considered, the Union 
Pacific withdrew from the lease and allied itself with Elijah Smith 
against the Northern Pacific. Ruinous duplication of branch lines 
followed, extensive litigation developed, and a further threat to the 
Northern Pacific came when James J. Hill pushed his St. Paul, Minne 
apolis and Manitoba on to the coast, with the intention of forming a 
connection with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company at 
Spokane and getting a through route to the sea. To protect the North 
ern Pacific interests and check Hill, Villard began an effort to secure 
complete control of the Oregon and Transcontinental Company, which 
in turn controlled the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company and 
owned one-quarter of the Northern Pacific. In this he was opposed by 
the Union Pacific, which also desired to control the Oregon and Trans 
continental Company in order to weaken the Northern Pacific. The 
contest that developed threw all Wall Street into one or other of the 
two camps, but in the end Villard defeated the other interests and 
assumed control. After he had won, he found that the exclusive lease 
of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company tracks to the Union 
Pacific could not be abrogated, so his victory did not permit him to 
carry out his purpose of granting their use to the Northern Pacific. 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 375 

He therefore caused the holding company to sell its Oregon Railway 
and Navigation Company stock to the Union Pacific, and that was 
the last of the Northern Pacific's entry to Portland along the lower 
bank of the Columbia River and also of Villard's connection with the 
Oregon railroad lines. While Villard had been trying to maintain the 
status quo of the Northwestern roads, Portland had experienced a 
change of heart toward him. Since he was no longer fighting exclusively 
for her, she conceived him to be her enemy. And the Oregonian even 
went so far as to demand that the nefarious Oregon and Transconti 
nental Company, which had been created by Villard for Portland's 
protection, be disincorporated. 

While he had been occupied with the larger aspects of transconti 
nental railroad-building, the project that had originally brought 
Villard to Oregon had lapsed. The Oregon and California Railroad 
had reached Roseburg, and the Oregon and Transcontinental Com 
pany had agreed to extend it to California, but financial difficulties 
had prevented this. The road was not making the interest on its bonds, 
and it finally went into the hands of a receiver. In 1885 Collis P. 
Huntington took it over for the Central Pacific, and two years later 
it was absorbed in the Southern Pacific system, giving Portland a 
direct connection with San Francisco. One of the first things the new 
management did was to revalue the lands received from the Govern 
ment under the Oregon and California grant, and this opened the 
way for future trouble because the lands were given the railroad on 
the express condition that none be sold for more than $2.50 an acre 
and that all be sold in small lots to actual settlers. 

Until the panic of 1893 there was little change in the transportation 
situation at Portland. The Union Pacific gave her an unobstructed 
outlet to the east, and the Southern Pacific to the south. But in this 
financial storm railroads were shaken to bed-rock, the Union Pacific 
and Northern Pacific and fifty other roads went into bankruptcy, and 
when the debris was cleared away, there emerged a new figure des 
tined to become the most powerful force in American railroading. This 
man, who was profoundly to affect the fortunes of Portland, was 
E. H, Harriman. 

Edward Henry Harriman was born in the Episcopal rectory at 
Hempstead, Long Island, on February 20, 1848. Two years later his 



376 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

father set sail for California, where he founded Episcopal churches 
in Stockton and Sacramento, to return broken in health to a parish 
in Jersey City. At 14 Edward decided to quit school and go to work. 
He started as office-boy at $5 a week in a brokerage firm. There was 
no ticker in those days, and he became a "pad-shover," carrying a pad 
on which the current prices of securities were penciled. Before he 
was 20, he became managing clerk of the office, and at 22 he borrowed 
$3,000, bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and opened 
an office of his own. He attracted many important customers, among 
them August Belmont, who said Harriman might draw on him at any 
time up to $1,000,000. In these years he spent much time at Paul 
Smith's camp in the Adirondacks with his friend Dr. Edward Trudeau, 
who had begun the country's first tuberculosis sanatorium, and he 
founded the Tompkins Square Boy's Club in New York City, the first 
organization of its kind in the country. 

At 33 Harriman entered the railroad field by purchasing a run-down 
short road operating between Canandaigua and Sodus Bay on Lake 
Ontario. Believing that if this property were improved, it would be 
valuable as an outlet to either the Pennsylvania or the New York 
Central, Harriman reorganized it as the Sodus Bay and Southern. He 
improved the line, built a grain-elevator at the harbor, and then 
offered it to both the larger railroads, with the result that he sold it 
to the Pennsylvania at a large profit. This transaction made him a 
firm believer in the desirability of continuously improving a railroad's 
physical condition. 

His friend Stuyvesant Fish having been made president of the Illi 
nois Central, Harriman became interested in the possibilities of this 
road, bought its stock, and was made a director. At once he became 
a powerful influence on the board, urging expansion and influencing 
the road to add a thousand miles to its trackage in the five years of 
his service, Since its credit was high, the directors of the road were 
able to carry on its financing on excellent terms. Its 4 per cent bonds 
to pay for the new properties were sold at par while other roads were 
paying 7 and 8 per cent and selling at a discount. It was during these 
years that Harriman, as chairman of the finance committee, learned 
the value of borrowing cheaply, a principle he carried out in all his 
later financing. When the road needed to buy one of its feeders, the 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 377 

Dubuque and Sioux City, Harriman and Fish were opposed by Drexel, 
Morgan and Company, the agents of the stockholders, who refused to 
sell their stock for less than par. Since the opposition had the major 
ity of the stock, Harriman knew that he must apply the strictest care 
to every detail of his campaign ; and he was resolved to win. At the 
meeting the proxies of Drexel, Morgan and Company were carefully 
examined and refused because they were signed by the firm personally 
and not as trustees. Having elected his own board of directors, Harri 
man later offered to pay 80 for the stock, and the Morgan firm reluc 
tantly accepted his offer. This little skirmish earned Harriman the 
respect of Wall Street and the enmity of J. Pierpont Morgan an 
enmity which deepened when, in later years, he opposed Morgan's 
plan for reorganizing the Erie and lived to see his predictions of disas 
ter for that plan fulfilled. 

Feeling a presentiment of approaching depression, in 1889 Harriman 
suddenly changed his advice to the directors of the Illinois Central 
and urged retrenchment instead of expansion, with the result that the 
road was able to weather the panic of 1893 which threw into bank 
ruptcy the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Northern Pacific, and many others. 
As chairman of the finance committee, Harriman's uncanny ability 
to judge the trend of the times was of great benefit to his road. As 
Otto H. Kahn said, "The Illinois Central never had bonds for sale 
except when bonds were in great demand; it never borrowed money 
except when money was cheap and abundant; periods of storm and 
stress found it amply prepared and fortified; its credit was of the 
highest. The few acquainted with the facts conceded that Mr. Harri 
man was a shrewd financial manager." Under Harriman's influence 
the road added trackage, improved its roadbed and rolling-stock, and 
more than doubled its earnings ; and during these years he learned the 
art and science of successfully operating a railroad property. 

During the panic of 1893 the Union Pacific paid heavily for its 
previous overexpansion and bad financing. When Jay Gould incor 
porated in it the unprofitable Kansas Pacific and the Denver Pacific, 
he severely weakened its financial structure ; and during the adminis 
tration of Charles Francis Adams many branch lines had been added 
while the road was forced to meet additional competition and its busi 
ness was reduced. It also had to prepare to meet in 1895 the payment 



378 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of the $53,000,000 borrowed from the Government. When the road went 
into receivership, J. P. Morgan and others struggled with reorganiza 
tion plans to no effect ; Jacob H. Schiff and Chauncey M. Depew then 
tried the job, but they soon found that they were running against 
hidden obstacles in everything they attempted to do. They thought it 
must be Morgan, but he denied any animosity, and then suspicion 
settled on "that little fellow Harriman." 

George Kennan, in his biography of Harriman, tells the story of the 
interview with Schiff: 

"Mr. Harriman, my associates and I, as you doubtless know, are trying 
to reorganize the Union Pacific. For a long time we have been making 
good progress but now we are meeting everywhere with opposition and 
I understand that this opposition is being directed by you. What have you 
to say about it?" 

"I am the man," replied Mr. Harriman. 

"But, why are you doing it?" asked Mr. Schiff. 

"Because I intend to reorganize the Union Pacific myself." 

This was somewhat surprising, but Mr. Schiff merely smiled and said, 
"How do you propose to do it, Mr. Harriman? Most of the securities 
of the company are in our possession. What means have you of reor 
ganizing the Union Pacific?" 

"The Illinois Central ought to have that road," replied Mr. Harriman, 
"and we are going to take charge of the reorganization; we have the best 
credit in the country. I am going to issue $10,000,000 in three per cent 
bonds of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and am going to get 
close to par for them. You, at the best, can't get money for less than 
four-and-a-half per cent. In that respect I am stronger than you are." 

Mr. Schiff was amazed at the confident boldness of these assertions, 
but he merely replied, "You'll have a good time doing it, Mr. Harriman, 
but, meanwhile, what is your price?" 

"There is no price," replied Harriman. "I am determined to get pos 
session of the road." * 

Rather than face the opposition of such a fighter, Schiff finally 
decided to make Harriman a director of the Union Pacific and a mem 
ber of the executive committee, and he told him that if he proved to 
be the strongest man on the committee, he would probably get the 
chairmanship in the end. Reorganization went forward, Kuhn, Loeb 
and Company bought the road for $81,000,000, and Harriman began 

* George Kennan, E. H. Harriman (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1922). 



PORTLAND, THE CITY pRAVITY BUILT 379 

to study the property. After the road had gone into bankruptcy in 
1893, the receivers had sold various of the subsidiaries. Among the 
branch lines that had been lost was the Oregon Short Line from 
Granger, Wyoming, to Snake River, connecting with the Oregon Rail 
way and Navigation Company line to Portland, and Harriman deter 
mined to get this back. In 1898 the company reacquired the Kansas 
Pacific and the Denver Pacific, which it had also lost after the panic 
of 1893, and Harriman made plans for a trip over the entire property. 
He had a special train made up with an observation car in front and 
the engine in the rear, and he made the whole trip from Omaha to 
Portland in daylight, sitting on the observation platform and taking 
notes on every aspect of equipment, grades, and ballast and, as one 
division superintendent said, every poor tie, blistered rail, and loose 
bolt on the road ; and this was almost literally true, for he later made 
suggestions about shortening the length of bolts and the width of 
track-ballast which saved the road hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
From Portland Harriman continued the trip to San Francisco and 
back to Ogden, Butte, and Omaha. As a result of what he saw, he 
determined to build the road up by straightening the track, laying 
heavy rails, and buying heavier locomotives and larger freight cars, 
so that more freight could be hauled in fewer trains at less expense. 
He wired the board for authority to start works totaling $25,000,000 
and personally invested $330,000 in the stock of the road, stock which 
was to form the basis of his great fortune. 

Although Schiff was so discouraged over the prospects of the road 
that he paced the floor in his hotel in Omaha all night, Harriman 
was enthusiastic. He believed that prosperity was about to return, 
and he saw the enormous possibilities of the territory served by the 
Union Pacific. His directors came to share his optimism, and in less 
than a year his genius as a railroad man had caused them to make him 
chairman of the board and of the executive committee, with complete 
control of the Union Pacific. Under the Harriman regime thousands 
of new oversize cars were bought, doubling the freight capacity ; power 
ful engines were ordered; and the road was straightened, relocated, 
ballasted, and made what was later called the most magnificent rail 
road property in America. In 1899 Harriman reacquired the Oregon 
Short Line, spent $6,000,000 on it, and obtained control of the Oregon 



380 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

Railway and Navigation Company, giving the system its outlet to the 
sea at Portland. Within two years after Harriman took control, the 
earnings of the Union Pacific had been doubled, and the road was in 
prime financial condition. And the common stock continued to rise 
from the 1898 price of $25 until it was $195 in 1906. During his control 
freight-rates were decreased 15 per cent and service rendered in 
creased 140 per cent. 

Seeing that he must also build up the Central Pacific, which con 
nected San Francisco with the Union Pacific at Ogden, if he was to 
maintain the efficiency of his system, Harriman began to reach out 
for control of this road, and when Collis P. Huntington died in August, 
1900, he had his opportunity. He floated a Union Pacific loan of $100,- 
000,000 in 4 per cent convertible bonds and acquired control of the 
Southern Pacific system. It was the greatest railroad property in the 
country, stretching from New Orleans to San Francisco, and of it 
Harriman said, "We have bought not only a railroad but an empire." 
Efficiently to carry the freight delivered to it by the Union Pacific 
at Ogden, the Central Pacific was virtually reconstructed ; its length 
was cut by 50 miles, and a bridge was built directly across Salt Lake, 
a scheme first visioned by Huntington, the total cost of improvements 
within eight years being $242,000,000. The consolidation of the two 
roads resulted in economies and efficiency of operation, and it also 
stopped competition for freight at common points, where, it was said, 
"the shippers played poker with the railroad agent in a near-by hotel 
for rebates while the cars were being loaded." 

In 1895 another man entered Oregon who is entitled to be remem 
bered among the railroad-builders, although his enterprises ran the 
gamut of commercial and industrial development. This was Andrew B. 
Hammond. Bom in St. Leonard's, New Brunswick, July 22, 1848, he 
had gone to Missoula, Montana, at 19, and there he had opened a store, 
organized a bank, and built two railroad lines which were later ab 
sorbed by the Northern Pacific. In the later Nineties he conceived the 
Mea tf building a railroad a hundred miles down the Columbia from 
Portland to the seaport of Astoria, there to establish ocean terminals 
and to tap the rich coast timber belt. This was in line with Hunting- 
tOB's early ideas of extending the Central Pacific to Astoria, and 
Hammond interested him in the scheme. To help finance the road he 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 381 

was also joined by the Mark Hopkins estate and John Claflin of New 
York 

Work was begun in August, 1895, and the road was completed in 
April, 1898. With this rail connection Astoria confidently looked 
forward to becoming the great ocean terminal of Oregon, since she 
was just inside the mouth of the Columbia while Portland was one 
hundred miles up the river. But Portland had no intention of sur 
rendering the business to this rival. Her financial interests fought the 
development of the port of Astoria from the outset, and again it was 
proved that geographical advantage is only a small part of the battle 
in building a city. Portland had the concentration of jobbing houses 
and was the converging point of railroads, so that cargoes could be 
easily assembled as well as discharged there. And though Astoria 
valiantly fought for precedence, building a model municipal port in 
later years, she was never able to obtain any large share of the ocean 
commerce. 

Hammond, through the Hammond Lumber Company, built mills at 
Astoria and elsewhere and acquired extensive timber holdings in west 
ern Oregon and northern California. In time he became the leading 
figure in the California redwood-lumber business, being the first to 
use large steel ships to carry lumber instead of small wooden vessels, 
and the first to manufacture finished products, such as doors, at the 
mills instead of shipping the lumber to be manufactured elsewhere. 
After he was eighty years old, he brought about a consolidation of 
the redwood interests of northern California, combining properties 
worth some $60,000,000. The Astoria road was sold to the Hill inter 
ests in 1907 and later became a part of the Spokane, Portland and 
Seattle Railway. 

At the time Hammond began his operations, Portland was the 
northwestern terminus of the country's most powerful transconti 
nental system, and it had the support of Harriman and his protection 
against James J. Hill, who was centering his Great Northern system 
at the rival port of Seattle. Moreover, the Columbia and the Wil 
lamette had been so much improved that Portland no longer feared 
that her shipping business would disappear in favor of Tacoma and 
Seattle. The city was, of course, firmly established as the metropolis 
of the Oregon country, and any development of that territory auto- 



382 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

matically benefited her. The towns that were the erstwhile rivals of 
Portland declared, however, that Portland "had never lent a helping 
hand to the interior" and that the city and its commercial bodies were 
against all progressive measures that would directly benefit any other 
part of the state. 

One of the barriers to the development of Oregon was the fact 
that the vast areas of land granted to the Oregon and California 
Railroad had never been opened for settlement to any extent; this 
acreage was therefore unproductive and unpeopled. When Harriman 
took control of the Southern Pacific in 1901, he immediately withdrew 
all this land from sale, in order, he said, that the books of the com 
pany might be examined and put in shape. During the San Francisco 
fire the company lost many records, and this served as a further reason 
for temporarily closing the Oregon lands to settlement. But when it 
developed that this was to be Harriman's permanent policy, the legis 
lature of Oregon in 1907 asked Congress to investigate the matter and 
force the company to live up to its agreement, which was to sell the 
land in small lots to actual settlers at .not more than $2.50 an acre. 
Investigation showed that the company had flagrantly violated this 
agreement: in order to save taxes much of the land had never been 
patented ; certain lands had been sold at high prices and in immense 
tracts. Nine years of controversy followed, seventeen volumes of tes 
timony were presented to the Supreme Court in 1915, and in 1916 
Congress gave effect to the Supreme Court's decision of forfeiture 
by an act which reverted 2,300,000 acres of the company's lands into 
the public domain, the company receiving $2.50 an acre for them. 
These government lands were then thrown open to settlement, adding 
much to the productivity of Oregon. 

But Harriman was not to be permitted to rule Oregon alone. There 
was another Titan in the offing, looking covetously into the Columbia 
basin and to the undeveloped territory of the central part of the state, 
and canny observers felt sure that James J. Hill was getting ready to 
strike. He threw down the gauntlet, appropriately enough, at a banquet 
given at Portland's world's fair, the Lewis and Clark Exposition, in 
1905. Hill then publicly announced his intention of entering and devel 
oping Oregon, and from that day forward his every move was opposed 
by Harriman. Already Hill had quietly completed surveys down the 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 383 

north bank of the Columbia to Portland, to occupy the water-level 
entry that the Northern Pacific had long ago intended to use before 
Villard diverted it to his railroad tracks on the south side. Various 
conjectures as to the identity of the interests backing the survey were 
made, the most popular being the Great Northern or the Northern 
Pacific, although Hill, as was his custom, had the business carried on 
by a locally organized company. The public announcement of the 
identity of the North-Bank builders surprised every one, however, for 
it then appeared that Hill had commissioned Howard Elliott, presi 
dent of the Northern Pacific, to build the road for the joint use 
of both railroads, and thus both the northern systems would have an 
entry into Portland. 

Alarmed by this concerted attack on his territory, Harriman imme 
diately began obstructionist tactics. He organized the Columbia Valley 
Railroad Company and the Cascade Railroad Company to oppose the 
Hill interests and made paper surveys of a line from the Washington 
town of Wallula to Vancouver to conflict with the Hill locations. 
Wherever Harriman's surveys crossed the Hill line, he applied to the 
United States land-office, under the right of eminent domain, for 
certificates to build. When these were granted, they furnished ample 
excuse for legal warfare, even if Harriman never intended actually 
to build over the route he surveyed. At the towering rock promontory 
of Cape Horn Harriman started to build a tunnel with half a dozen 
men wielding picks and trundling wheelbarrows at the west approach ; 
but this was such a pitiful display in contrast to the $30,000 equipment 
Hill was using at the east approach that when the matter was taken 
into court, it was decided that Harriman had no actual intent to build, 
and Hill won the case. Harriman also occupied the old narrow-gage 
portage railroad that Captain Ainsworth had long ago acquired on 
the Washington side of the river at Cascade Locks, which was then 
being used to transport fish; but the North Bank engineer, A. J. 
Witchel, outwitted him by running his line underground for four 
miles and then getting through the narrow gorge on a 27-foot right of 
way purchased from private owners. Most of the Hill-Harriman con 
test was fought in the courts, but their workmen took it as a personal 
matter; they indulged in fist fights and in several instances tried to 
dynamite each other. It was said that during the battle Harriman 



384 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

had to be operated on for appendicitis, and that as soon as his doctor 
said he could use the telephone, he called Hill and told him that the 
operation was over and that he was feeling fine and ready to go on 
with the fight. The last suit was tried in 1906 and resulted in a victory 
for Hill. Meanwhile, Harriman had carried his warfare into the 
enemy's country by buying a right of way for an extension of the 
Union Pacific to Puget Sound, purchasing terminals at Tacoma, and 
starting to dig a tunnel into that city and one under the Portland 
suburb of St. Johns. The upshot of the matter was that a compromise 
was effected whereby Hill double-tracked his line to Puget Sound and 
permitted Harriman to run his trains into Tacoma and Seattle over 
the Hill rails, while Harriman stopped his obstruction of the Spokane, 
Portland and Seattle Railroad, as the North Bank line was afterward 
known. 

So Hill won his first entry into Oregon, and he jubilantly announced 
to its citizens that his line 

will be the best new road that was ever built in the United States. It 
will be a road of low grades and few curves. Low grades are equivalent to 
deep water in the harbor. Portland can overcome the lack of deep water 
by easy grades. The Columbia River offers great opportunities in low 
grades, but construction is frightfully expensive. There are miles where 
the cost of building the road will run over $100,000 to the mile. And this 
is exclusive of the cost of tunnels of which there are several to the mile 
in many places. 

When more than $35,000,000 had been spent, the last spike was driven 
on March n, 1908, and trains began to roll into Portland over the 
water-level route. Citizens of Vancouver, across the Columbia, con 
gratulated themselves that since every car of freight had to pass 
through their town, Vancouver would be the coming metropolis and 
front door, while Portland would soon have to content itself with 
being the back. 

But Hill was ever an aggressor, and once he had an inch in Oregon, 
he proceeded to take a mile. One spring a certain John F. Sampson 
went fisMng IB the Oregon interior, in the Bend country. He fished 
for trout, carried an elarborate collection of flies, seemed to have plenty 
of time and plenty of money so much money, in fact, and such a 
fting for this sportsman's paradise, as the guide-books will have it, 




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PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 385 

that he bought land-grants, ranches, options, and when he had all 
he needed, he disappeared. Young Billy Nelson of Portland owned the 
controlling stock in the Oregon Trunk Railroad, which had been 
surveyed down the east bank of the Deschutes River but never built, 
and he was astonished when this same mysterious stranger made an 
appointment to meet him in City Park and there paid him $150,000 
for his interest in this moribund road. When these strange transactions 
had been completed, the sportsman stopped playing his game and 
gave his right name John F. Stevens, formerly chief engineer of 
the Panama Canal, now agent of James J. Hill. With the Stevens right 
of way in his possession, Hill began action. Running across the Co 
lumbia from the Washington side of the river near the Dalles, he 
projected a line straight to Bend, 165 miles south, where the smoke 
of a railroad engine had never been seen. That move was dangerous 
enough to alarm Harriman, but anyone could see that Bend was 
only a half-way house for Hill. He had his eye on San Francisco, and 
if Harriman permitted him to occupy central Oregon unmolested, he 
would next press on to the Golden Gate and there contest the rule of 
the Southern Pacific. 

So Harriman fought Hill every inch of the way. On the west side 
of the Deschutes River he laid out the Deschutes Railroad, parallel 
to HilPs Oregon Trunk, and rushed construction at equal speed. Har- 
riman's engineer was George W. Boschke, who had built the sea-wall 
at Galveston, an intrepid and resourceful field general. The Hill con 
struction was under the charge of Porter Brothers, who had built 
the North Bank road for him. Under such capable leadership the two 
giants of railroading raced to reach the central-Oregon goal, building 
along both sides of the narrow Deschutes Canon with its 2,ooo-foot 
wall of rock, while their construction gangs carried on a relentless and 
sanguinary war. Dynamite was planted and exploded so as to inter 
fere with the work, men were killed by strangely falling boulders 
and slides, officers of the law galore were unable to bring about even 
a semblance of order. Harriman spent 100,000 on zigzag wagon- 
roads cut down into the canon, roads which were so rough that nitro 
glycerine could not be trucked down them. All supplies, even hay, 
had to be packed in by 2,600 men building for Harriman and 2,600 
building for Hill. As soon as the dirt roads were built, the procession 



386 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

of four-horse teams using them was almost continuous. In their wild 
race the two outfits bought farms, closed public roads, and fought 
each other in the courts. The crisis in the battle came at mile 75, 
when an attempt was made to entice Boschke away by sending him a 
fake wire, "The Galveston sea-wall has broken." But he calmly re 
plied, "It's a lie. I built that wall to stand. Double the force on mile 
75." Mile 75 was the place where the Oregon Trunk crossed to the 
west side of the Deschutes River. Here the Oregon Trunk surveys 
antedated those of the Deschutes Railroad and had been approved at 
Washington. But a homesteader, Smith by name, had previously filed 
on the land ; later he proved his claim and sold it to Harriman, thus 
giving him the advantage over Hill. As there was no other route to 
get into the country except by way of a narrow defile at the Smith 
ranch, Hill decided to arbitrate, and the opposing parties stopped 
fighting. A truce was arranged by which Hill agreed to build only as 
far south as Bend and to permit Harriman to run his trains to that 
point. over his 42-mile track from the town of Metolius. From the 
town of Bend, 4,500 feet in altitude, a train could practically roll 
downhill to Portland, and when a road south should be built, it could 
do the same to San Francisco. 

On October i, 1911, central Oregon bade the stage-coach good-by 
and greeted the new purveyor of transportation, James Jerome Hill. He 
drove the golden spike that marked completion of his road to Bend, 
while 7,000 citizens cheered and the Indians marveled at "the white 
man's cow-pony," the locomotive. The remarks of the Empire Builder 
on this momentous occasion were in his usual ingratiatingly ingenu 
ous homespun style : 

When the Southern Pacific railroad drove its lines into this country, 
they had a hard time and now the country is growing to a point where it 
is easier for them, and in order to help them out and in order to make it 
still easier, we have come over to extend them a helping hand and help 
them open up this country; and if they are not ready to go ahead, we 
will try to take the load ourselves, but I hope they have got breath and 
life in them, strong enough to keep them well up to the front. 

We have spent between Spokane and Portland and in Oregon between 
eighty and ninety millions and we have not received any returns on it. 
But we have faith. We will if you will help us, because every dollar 
that we ever get, you have got to win it first, and if you are poor we are 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 387 

going to be poor, and if you are prosperous we ought to have a little share 
of your prosperity, and we hope to get it. 

We are like Daniel in the lion's den. Now we mean to get along with 
our neighbor the Union Pacific. When they get in a tight place we are 
going to extend the helping hand of fellowship and if we get into a tight 
place we will call on them. We won't make faces across the fence. We 
found that there was room for two railroads down there on the Deschutes 
and we hope both of them will have all they can carry. 

Although it was expected that Hill would soon build south to Cali 
fornia, he turned his attention to other matters, and this was the 
end of his railroad construction in central Oregon. He bought electric 
lines to compete with Harriman in the Willamette Valley as far south 
as Eugene, however; and he bought ocean terminals near Astoria 
at the mouth of the Columbia, put two immense steamers on the run 
to San Francisco, and, by sending passengers from Portland to the 
docks on a boat train, made such fast time that he could compete 
with the Harriman rail lines. Harriman built extensions to Tillamook 
and Coos Bay and planned a new Southern Pacific main line from 
Weed, California, to Portland by way of Klamath Falls, east of the 
old line, but he died before this was completed. Hill was deterred by 
the financial condition of the country and the war, so that the Great 
Northern extension to San Francisco was temporarily dropped. And 
when it finally was completed in 1931, it was the project of a suc 
cessor of the Empire Builder, Arthur Curtiss James, the then dominant 
figure in Western railroads. 

Of the Oregon transportation kings, Ben Holladay was the first to 
suffer eclipse. After he gave up his interests to Villard, he went to 
Washington to press his claims against the Government for the losses 
his stage properties had suffered from Indian raids, and it appeared 
that he might get half a million out of them. But Congress failed to 
pass his bill, and he returned to Portland, still swaggering, wearing a 
top-hat, smoking a big cigar, and interlarding his conversation with 
his favorite phrase, "Don't you understand?" His only friend among 
the first families of Portland was Captain John H. Couch, who visited 
him until the end. All the rest of the city's leaders gave Ben the cold- 
shoulder, and he spent most of his time conferring with lawyers and 
attempting to borrow $20 gold-pieces from acquaintances. When he 



388 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

had gone into bankruptcy, he had deeded his real estate to his brother 
Joe, who had made, and penuriously saved, a fortune. This fortune 
had its beginning in the bar-concession on Ben's California boats, 
where Joe sold liquor at 25 cents a drink. When Ben reminded Joe 
of his agreement to return the property on demand, Joe had forgotten 
it; not only that, but he also claimed that Ben owed him $160,000. 
The property, originally valued at $400,000, was now worth from 
three to five times that much, and Ben's creditors all started suits, 
claiming that the agreement between the two brothers was a con 
spiracy to defraud them. Ben now had no property left except the 
Hot Springs of Virginia, on which he received a rental of $5,000 a 
year, but this was nothing for a man of his extravagant tastes and 
inordinate expenses for legal counsel. As his financial troubles in 
creased, so did his addiction to morphine. For years he had carried a 
syringe in his pocket, and he finally succumbed to the effects of illness 
and the use of the drug, in Portland, July 8, 1887. His brother Joe 
later received $500,000 of the disputed property, and Ben's creditors 
got the rest. There is no monument in Portland to mark his fame, 
and it is doubtful if many people know why a residence street, a grade 
school, and a small park bear the name of Holladay. Yet in his day 
he was undoubtedly the leading figure of Oregon, if not of the Pacific 
Coast. 

Henry Villard, whom Holladay's ventures were responsible for 
bringing to Oregon, continued to struggle with the Northwest trans 
portation problem for many years. As chairman of the board of the 
Northern Pacific he evolved a scheme for refinancing the three exist 
ing mortgages on the road and providing funds for extensions. This 
was no less than the floating of the largest general mortgage ever 
created for an American railroad, amounting to $160,000,000, He also 
tried to mitigate the threat of the extension of the Great Northern 
to the Pacific Coast by buying a majority interest in the St. Paul, 
Minneapolis and Manitoba, which controlled the Great Northern. He 
thought he had induced the wily Hill to sell this stock at 120, and he 
made arrangements for a loan of $20,000,000 to buy it. But at the hour 
when the papers were to be signed, Hill failed to appear, and the deal, 
which would have meant continuous prosperity for the Northern Pa 
cific, fell through. Evidently Hill never had the slightest intention 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 389 

of parting with his rich property, although Villard thought otherwise. 
In order to inconvenience Hill as much as possible, however, Villard's 
company bought the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad so 
that Hill could not acquire this western outlet to the sea. 

In 1890 the North American Company, which Villard had evolved 
to take over the Oregon and Transcontinental Company, was in dif 
ficulties. In Germany he raised several million dollars to help it, but 
its New York bankers failed, and the company lost most of its assets. 
At this time he began to predict that the country was headed for dis 
aster unless the Sherman Silver Act were repealed and the gold stand 
ard maintained. To broadcast his ideas he bought the New York 
Evening Post and worked for the election of Grover Cleveland. But 
the financial panic arrived in 1893, and the Northern Pacific, which 
had spent $30,000,000 in building unprofitable extensions, went into 
the hands of a receiver. Villard resigned from this company and the 
North American Company in the summer of that year. From that 
time on he had little contact with the Western railroads until 1899, 
when he went over the Northern Pacific again. On this trip, his first 
in eight years, he found Portland a city of 90,000, Tacoma, 45,000, 
Seattle, 65,000, and Spokane, 40,000. It proved to be his last inspection 
of the great railroad he had developed, for he died in New York on 
November 12, 1900. 

But Villard's memory still lives in Oregon. For he started the prac 
tice of making large gifts for public uses in the state, and Villard 
Hall still stands as a memorial of this philanthropy at the State Uni 
versity at Eugene. Realizing the significance of Villard's benefaction, 
Judge Mathew P. Deady said, on the occasion of receiving this gift, 

This $50,000 given to the University of Oregon is the only considerable 
gift of private capital to public uses ever made in the state. For a third 
of a century wealth has been accumulating in the hands of the enter 
prising and fortunate but no town can yet boast a building, monument, 
arch, fountain, hospital, asylum, gallery, school or church, the gift of 
one of its citizens. Let us hope that this auspicious beginning will prove 
to be the stone loosed from the side of the mountain that shall fill the 
whole valley. 

At the time of Villard's death, the pioneer William Reid, who had 
built the old Oregonian narrow-gage railway and was the last sur- 



390 THEY BUILT THE WEST 

vivor of the old railway men, proposed that the city erect a statue of 
Villard in the plaza in front of the Court House, 

just as he appeared, September 8, 1883, on the day when he gave Port 
land her first transcontinental railway connection with New York. He 
was the first who saw and utilized for Portland the advantage she has 
long since permanently acquired for using the line down the Columbia 
which, coupled with the 25-foot channel to Astoria, is the sole key to 
Portland's prosperity. If he had delayed the building of the Oregon Rail 
road and Navigation Company and made the first rail connection to 
Puget Sound, where would Portland be to-day? 

Captain John C. Ainsworth, the leader of the river-transportation 
monopolists, in his later years spread his financial interests all over 
the Pacific Coast. He bought much real estate at Tacoma, spent 
$3,000,000 developing Redondo Beach, near Los Angeles, and ran a 
steamship line from that point to Portland. He organized the Ains 
worth National Bank of Portland and the Central Bank of Oakland, 
California, and finally moved to Oakland, where he died in 1893. His 
name is remembered in Portland, and his influence as a banker sur 
vives through the connection of his family with the United States 
National Bank. And the old Captain's son, John Churchill Ainsworth, 
who controls the great bank, commemorates the beginnings of the 
family fortune in a room devoted to housing models of all the old river- 
steamers owned by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. There, 
among the gaily colored models of boats with such luscious names as 
Harvest Queen and Wide West, one can reconstruct in imagination the 
life on the river when the Triumvirate ruled and built up the fortunes 
which are still a potent influence in Portland. 

R. R. Thompson, who, like Reed, was something of a stock-breeder 
and introduced the Merino ram into Oregon, moved to California 
in later life and joined Ainsworth in the development of Redondo 
Beach, of which the young Captain George Ainsworth was made 
manager. His name is not familiarly connected with anything in Port 
land to-day, unless it be the Multnomah Hotel, which was built by 
his estate on some of the property he owned near the old center of 
the business district. 

E. H. Harriman's railroad interests were so large that he cannot be 
said to have represented Portland chiefly, but his pet, the Union 



PORTLAND, THE CITY GRAVITY BUILT 391 

Pacific, headed up In that city, and whatever plans he might have 
made for improving his system would have ministered to Portland's 
greatness. In the last decades of his life he was concerned with a 
round-the-world transportation system which involved control of the 
Trans-Siberian Railway, and he conducted diplomatic negotiations in 
the Far East with this end in view, but these negotiations were never 
successfully completed. Had he controlled the Siberian Railway, he 
would, of course, have moderniz